Focus On Munster’s Champions Cup Opposition
26th June 2023 By The Editor
Take a closer look at Munster’s Champions Cup Pool opponents for the 2023/24 season following last week’s draw.
Munster will play two home games and two away games in Pool 3 with three-time champions RC Toulon, 2020 winners Exeter Chiefs, Northampton Saints and debutants Aviron Bayonnais (Bayonne) providing the opposition.
Glasgow Warriors, the second URC club in Pool 3, will play against the same opponents as Munster.
Fixture details will be confirmed at a later date. Book the best seats in the house for our home games with a Season Ticket, see full details here.
All four games will be played in December and January with the top four teams in each pool progressing to the knock-out stages. The fifth-placed team will go into the Challenge Cup and the bottom side will be knocked out.
Bayonne is a city in southwestern France near the Spanish border. Aviron Bayonnais play their home games at the 14,370 capacity Stade Jean-Dauger.
They finished eighth in the Top 14 last year after an impressive return to the French top flight having won the ProD2 in 2022.
They won 13, drew one and lost 12 of their 26 league fixtures last season to earn a place in the Champions Cup.
Flanker Baptiste Héguy is one of their top performers and has earned a place in the France squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
They have strengthened considerably ahead of next season with 15-cap France lock Arthur Iturria a marquee signing as he joins from Clermont Auvergne.
62-cap Australia international Reece Hodge is another big-name addition along with Italian international Federico Mori, Argentina pair Rodrigo Bruni and Lucas Paulos, and Georgia’s Gela Aprasidze.
Munster have duked it out with Exeter Chiefs four times in the past five years with the sides meeting in the 2018/19 Pool stages and 2021/22 round of 16.
From Devon on England’s southwest coast, the Chiefs’ home is the 15,600 capacity Sandy Park with the sides playing out a 10-all draw in their first competitive meeting in 2018.
Munster were 9-7 winners at Thomond Park in another nail-biting encounter later that season.
Exeter beat Munster for the first time at Sandy Park in the round of 16 first leg in April 2022, winning 13-8. But a 26-10 victory for Munster in the return fixture secured our progression to the quarter-finals.
They finished seventh in the Premiership last year. Henry Slade and Jonny Gray are two of Exeter’s best players with emerging Wales international Christ Tshiunza a very highly-rated prospect.
Centre Sean O’Brien joins Munster from Exeter this summer with Stuart Hogg, Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, Joe Simmonds and Harry Williams also departing Chiefs.
Another club that Munster have faced recently, Munster edged past Northampton twice in the Pool stages of last season’s Champions Cup.
A huge defensive effort saw Munster emerge with a 17-6 victory at Franklin’s Gardens before Graham Rowntree’s men hung on for a 27-23 victory at Thomond Park after Jack O’Donoghue was sent off after 22 minutes.
Phil Dowson led Northampton to the Premiership semi-finals in his first season as Director of Rugby and their squad will be boosted by a number of new signings including former London Irish trio Tom Pearson, Tarek Haffar and Chunya Munga.
Seven of next year’s squad were named in England’s training camp ahead of the World Cup: Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Pearson, Alex Mitchell, Tommy Freeman, Fraser Dingwall and Fin Smith.
Based in the English midlands, Northampton play their home games at the 15,200 capacity Franklin’s Gardens.
Munster and Toulon are set to face off for the first time since the thrilling 2018 Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park.
Andrew Conway’s brilliant solo try, converted by Ian Keatley, secured a 20-19 victory against a star-studded Toulon outfit.
Based in southeastern France, Toulon play their home games at the 17,500 capacity Stade Mayol and won the 2023 Challenge Cup.
They are captained by French international Charles Ollivon with Welsh international Dan Biggar at out-half.
They finished seventh in the Top 14 this year and will be boosted by a number of additions in the summer including Leicester Fainga’anuku from Crusaders and David Ribbans from Pool 3 opponents Northampton.
Champions Cup Weekends
Round 1 – 8/9/10 December 2023
Round 2 – 15/16/17 December 2023
Round 3 – 12/13/14 January 2024
Round 4 – 19/20/21 January 2024
Round of 16 – 5/6/7 April 2024
Quarter-finals – 12/13/14 April 2024
Semi-finals – 3/4/5 May 2024
Champions Cup final – Saturday 25 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium