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Saracens open against Clermont

Saracens will open their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign by renewing hostilities with Clermont Auvergne, the French side they trounced to reach last term's Heineken Cup final.

The north London club will help launch an intriguing opening weekend for the inaugural European competition to replace the now-defunct Heineken Cup.

Clermont will be seeking revenge for Saracens' 46-6 Twickenham hammering in last term's European semi-final showdown at Twickenham.

Mark McCall's men - beaten Heineken Cup and Aviva Premiership finalists last season - will host Clermont on October 18 in the opening European weekend.

Reigning European champions and French Top 14 winners Toulon will start their Pool Three battles by hosting Welsh region the Scarlets at Stade Mayol.

Current Premiership champions Northampton Saints will make the trip to Racing Metro in Pool Five when the 20th season of European competition gets under way.

Guinness Pro12 title holders Leinster will entertain Wasps in round one, the London club having qualified through the new play-off system at the end of last term.

Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop showdown with Castres on Friday, October 17 will kick-start the new season's European action, with all 20 games in rounds one and two broadcast live on either BT Sport or Sky Sports.

Gloucester will open the European Rugby Challenge Cup proceedings by hosting Brive at Kingsholm on Thursday, October 16.

Italian sides Rovigo and Calvisano, Georgian outfit Tblisi Caucasians and Romanians Bucharest Wolves can all still win through to the new-look Challenge Cup.

The two-legged Challenge Cup Qualification Play-offs will be held next month, with Rovigo taking on Caucasians and Calvisano meeting Bucharest.

The inaugural Champions Cup is the product of more than two years of political wrangling between the English, French and Celtic nations.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the new governing body that handles tournament administration, with meritocratic qualification and enhanced TV rights deals two of the chief results of the new format.

EPCR has set up headquarters in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

European Rugby Cup (ERC), the body that ran the Heineken Cup, has been commissioned to run the new competition while EPCR continues to lay its foundations in Switzerland.

Despite the stay of execution ERC is still expected to be wound up in time, though could well run the new-look European set-up for the duration of the coming campaign.

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