All you need to know guide

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP -

How does it work?

The teams are split into five pools of four. Each team play one an­other home and away, with the top team in each pool pro­gress­ing into the quar­ter-fi­nals. They are then joined by the three high­est rank­ing sec­ond-placed sides across the three pools.

The quar­ter-fi­nals are seeded – mean­ing the four pool win­ners with the most points will earn po­ten­tially vi­tal home ad­van­tage in the last eight. Semi-fi­nals fol­low be­fore the fi­nal at St James’ Park.

Sorry, St James’ Park?

Last year Ath­letic Bil­bao’s San Mamés hosted the show­piece. The 2018-19 tour­na­ment reaches its crescendo at New­cas­tle United’s fa­mous old soc­cer ground.

I thought it was called the Cham­pi­ons Cup these days?

Well, it was. But this sea­son Heineken have re­turned as chief spon­sors, giv­ing us the re­branded Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup. In fair­ness, it’s al­ways been the Heineken Cup – it just sounds right, doesn’t it?

No Ital­ians?

This is the first sea­son where it hasn’t been a pre­req­ui­site for there to be an Ital­ian side in the com­pe­ti­tion, with the seven Pro14 rep­re­sen­ta­tives all be­ing de­cided on merit.

How can I watch it?

Ev­ery fix­ture is be­ing tele­vised – but there’s good news. This sea­son, you can watch some of the games with­out need­ing a sub­scrip­tion to BT Sport.

You mean, free to air rugby?

You bet. Watch­ing sport has be­come an in­creas­ingly com­pli­cated and ex­pen­sive busi­ness. But in a re­fresh­ing move, one game from each round of this year’s com­pe­ti­tion will be shown on ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion, as well as one quar­ter-fi­nal, one semi-fi­nal and the fi­nal. In Ire­land TV3/Vir­gin Me­dia One have the rights, while in the UK you can watch on Chan­nel 4. What a time to be alive.

So which games can I watch for free?

Round one: Sat, Oct 13th: Bath v Toulouse (1.0pm). Round two: Sat, Oct 20th: Mun­ster v Gloucester (1.0pm). Round three: Sat, Dec 8th, Ex­eter v Gloucester (1.0pm). Round four: Sat, Dec 15th: Cardiff v Sara­cens (1.0pm). Round five: Sat, Jan 12th: Le­in­ster v Toulouse (1.0pm). Round six: To be con­firmed.

Not bad, eh?

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