The European Challenge Cup draw takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland, tomorrow (Wednesday) with Leicester Tigers in the hat alongside 19 other clubs. But who could they draw, and what do we know about them?
Tigers are one of four previous European champions in the competition– alongside Wasps, Toulon and Brive – in a draw which features eight clubs from France, five from the Gallagher Premiership, five from the Celtic competition and two qualifiers from the Continental Shield.
The draw is at 1.00pm UK time on Wednesday. Click here to find out more about how the draw works.
Here’s our rundown on the teams in the draw:
Challenge Cup runners-up in 1998, they won just two games in the tournament in 2018/19 under director of rugby Philippe Sella in a pool which featured Harlequins, Benetton and Grenoble.
Promoted from PRO D2 after play-off victory, they return to European competition after a two-year absence. They are in their 13th season of Challenge Cup competition but have reached the knockout stages just once, when they lost to London Irish in the 2005/06 quarter-finals.
Finished 10th in the Top14 during 2018/19 and won just two games in the Challenge Cup last year, finishing below Sale and Connacht in their pool. Former Castres head coach Christophe Urios, who has been widely tipped as a national team boss in the future, takes over for the new season.
Eighth in their first year back in the Premiership, the Bears also reached the Challenge Cup quarter-finals last season – their 10th year in the competition – before losing to La Rochelle who had also topped their original pool. Their best run took them to the semi-finals in 1999/2000 before defeat by Pau.
Finished top of PRO D2 in 2018/19 but had to beat Grenoble in the play-offs to secure promotion and, with it, a place in the Challenge Cup. They reached the Challenge Cup quarter-finals in 2017/18 and did, of course, beat Tigers to win the European Cup back in 1997.
Champions Cup opposition for Tigers three times in four seasons from 2001/02, the former club of Martin Castrogiovanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini have won their domestic league on five occasions in the last eight seasons. They beat fellow Italian side Rovigo in the Continental Shield play-offs to qualify for the Challenge Cup for a sixth time.
Challenge Cup winners in 2010 and again in 2018, they reached the Champions Cup semi-finals in 2009 before defeat to Tigers in a shoot-out. They finished fifth in their PRO14 conference behind Glasgow, Munster, Connacht and Ospreys in the season just ended.
Challenge Cup finalists in 1996/97 and 1999/20, they were also European Shield winners in 2003. French league champions in 2017/18, they faced Tigers in the Champions Cup that season, when each side won its home leg.
Sixth in their PRO14 conference, the Rodney Parade club welcomes a new coaching team for 2019/20 led by former Gloucester and Worcester chief Dean Ryan, with former Nottingham boss Glenn Delaney back in the UK as part of his staff.
Now home to Richard Cockerill, the Scots were Challenge Cup finalists in 2015, reached the quarter-finals in 2016 and ’17, and return to the tournament after finishing fifth in their PRO14 conference in 2018/19. They last faced Tigers in Europe during 2007/08 with each team winning at home.
Multiple Russian league champions and the first Russian club to participate in senior European competition, they are in the Challenge Cup for a fifth consecutive season. Enisei are based in the city of Krasnoyarsk, though they listed four different venues as potential home venues last season.
Making a first appearance in the tournament, Tigers ended the domestic season in 11th place in the Gallagher Premiership. Of the 15 non-English qualifiers, only Agen, Bayonne, Zebre and Enisei would present new opponents in European competition.
Returning to the Premiership after a season in the second tier, the Exiles were Challenge Cup runners-up in 2005/06, losing to Gloucester after extra-time in the Final at the Twickenham Stoop. They did not reach the knockout rounds in their most recent season of Challenge Cup competition in 2017/18 despite winning 44-7 away to Stade Francais in the pool.
Hosted Leicester in Tigers’ debut European season in 1996/97 and again in 2000/01, they were Challenge Cup winners in 2000, runners-up to Sale Sharks in 2005 and semi-finalists in 2017/18. Last season they won three and lost three in a pool topped by Worcester.
European Cup semi-final rivals of Tigers in 2002 and ’07, Scarlets were PRO14 runners-up in 2018 when they also reached the last eight of the Champions Cup. They slipped to fourth place in their PRO14 conference in 2018/19.
Stade Français Paris
Under former Leicester boss Heyneke Meyer, they finished the season in eighth place in the Top14. Regular rivals of Tigers – including the 2001 European Cup Final in Paris – they won the Challenge Cup in 2017 and have been runners-up twice. They have failed to get out of the pool stages just once in 11 previous seasons.
Three-time European champions (2013-15) and French league runners-up as recently as 2016 and ’17, they finished the domestic season in ninth place in 2018/19. Their European pedigree began with a run to the Challenge Cup Final in 2010, when they lost to Cardiff Blues, and they reached the final again in 2012 before beginning their dominance of the senior competition.
Seventh-placed finishers in the Gallagher Premiership in 2018/19, they were Challenge Cup winners in 2003 and European champions in 2004 and ’07. They are in the Challenge Cup for the first time since reaching the semi-finals in 2013/14.
Challenge Cup finalists in 2008, they reached the quarter-finals in 2018/19 before losing 16-18 at home to Harlequins. They finished the season in 10th place in the Gallagher Premiership.
Based in Parma, they won just three of their 21 PRO14 games in 2018/19 but also won three in the Challenge Cup, finishing behind La Rochelle and Bristol in their pool.