Leicester Tigers will face French duo Brive and Bayonne in the pool stages of the new-look European Challenge Cup in 2020/21.
A new format has been adopted for this season in the face of the Covid pandemic across Europe, with clubs playing four pool fixtures, two at home and two away, and a Round of 16 to follow at the start of the knockout stages.
Tigers, who reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup last season before defeat by RC Toulon, will face more French opposition after being drawn against Top 14 duo Brive and Bayonne in the opening stage of the tournament.
The campaign starts with a game against Brive at The Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Friday, December 11 (7.45pm) before a trip to Bayonne the following weekend.
The reverse fixture with Bayonne is in Leicester on Friday, January 15 and final pool-stage fixture at Brive’s Stade Amédée Domenech on the following weekend.
Brive and Tigers have met just once before, though it did come on the biggest stage in the 1997 European Cup Final, when the French side took the honours in the first season of English participation in the tournament. The teams have not met again in 24 years of Leicester’s European participation.
Bayonne, in the south-west of France, are new opponents in competitive action, with the clubs meeting previously only in pre-season.
After the pool fixtures in December and January, there is a new Round of 16 stage in early April featuring the eight highest-ranked qualifiers from the pools plus clubs ranked 5-8 in each of the two pools in the Heineken Champions Cup.
That stage is followed by quarter-finals and semi-finals. The final is scheduled for the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Friday, May 21.
European Challenge Cup line-up
Premiership: Worcester Warriors, London Irish, Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons
PRO14: Benetton Rugby, Cardiff Blues, Zebre Rugby Club, Ospreys
TOP 14: Bayonne, Castres Olympique, Brive, Pau, Agen, Stade Français Paris
Round 1: December 11/12/13
Round 2: December 18/19/20
Round 3: January 15/16/17
Round 4: January 22/23/24
Round of 16: April 2/3/4
Quarter-finals: April 9/10/11
Semi-finals: April 30 – May 1/2
Final: May 21