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Ulster avoid clash with Montpellier and Pienaar in draw

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster find out this afternoon who they will face in next season's Champions Cup when the pool stage draw takes place in Switzerland (1pm).

But the province's fans have already breathed a side of relief with the news that departing hero Ruan Pienaar's new side Montpellier are one of four sides they cannot be paired alongside.

Both Ulster and the south of France outfit, which Pienaar and a host of other big names will join this summer, are in Pot 3, alongside English side Bath.

While Les Kiss's side can also not be drawn to play their inter-provincial rivals Leinster and Munster, the rest of the draw is relatively open, given that the first three pots will be only finalised just before the draw.

With the three domestic champions - Exeter, Scarlets, and Clermont - guaranteed to be the top seeds, two of the three beaten finalists will join them with a trickle-down effect filling out the rest of the pools.

Although their fifth place league finish has done them no favours, Ulster will be hoping for a kinder draw than in recent years.

Having made the quarter-finals every year between 2011 and 2014, the Kingspan outfit have not been back in the last eight since.

In all three of those years, however, they have been paired in the pool stage with a team that went on to reach the final.

And indeed last year, when they finished rock bottom of their pool, they ended up alongside two sides who went on to win their domestic leagues in Exeter and Clermont.

Pot 1: Exeter, Scarlets, Clermont (two of Wasps/Munster/Toulon)

Pot 2: Leinster, Saracens, La Rochelle (one of Wasps/Munster/Toulon) (one of Ospreys/Leicester/Racing 92)

Pot 3: Ulster, Montpellier, Bath, (two of Ospreys/Leicester/Racing 92)

Pot 4: Glasgow, Harlequins, Castres, Treviso, Northampton

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