All you need to know guide
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?
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?