Representatives from eight of the PRO12 teams participating in the new European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup gathered in Dublin today for the official launch of the competition that kicks off in 10 days’ time.

Connacht welcome La Rochelle to the Sportsground for the opening round of the Challenge Cup on Saturday October 18th, kick off 5pm. A week later, Pat Lam’s men are on the road in Exeter for an afternoon clash with the in-form Aviva Premiership side at Sandy Park.

Rounds 3 and 4 feature home and away legs with Top 14 side Bayonne, the dates and kick off times of which are to be confirmed by EPCR later this week.

Connacht’s Team Manager Tim Allnutt and player Jason Harris-Wright travelled from Galway for the media launch and also got a first glimpse of the new trophies that were unveiled at the Convention Centre in Dublin city this morning.

The bespoke trophies, made of mixed metals including sterling silver and 18ct gold plating, were crafted by the internationally renowned silversmiths, Thomas Lyte of London.

The unique and attractive designs are set to become iconic emblems of the European club game coveted by players the world over.

Both trophies will be on display at selected matches in the opening rounds of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments which get underway on the weekend of Thursday, 16 October.

Speaking to the attending media, Team Manager and former captain Tim Allnutt commented on Connacht’s rich history in the tier 2 competition of Europe:

“Connacht has played something like 98 games in the Challenge Cup, formally the Amlin, and we’ve enjoyed some great seasons there.  Our supporters will remember big days at the Sportsground such as the semi-final with Toulon back in 2010. It’s a great competition and we’ve some tough pool games to get our teeth into this season.  Exeter have had a fantastic start to their Premiership campaign and we always relish games with the French teams. Both La Rochelle and Bayonne have had mixed results but have shown that they are extremely tough to beat at home so we’ll be taking nothing for granted.

“We’re happy with the start to our PRO12 season but we need to keep the momentum going with Treviso this week and then straight into Europe.”

Hooker Jason Harris-Wright who underwent shoulder reconstruction surgery earlier in the summer has had a long road to recovery but is targeting the Challenge Cup game with La Rochelle to be back in the fold for selection:

“It’s been tough watching from the sidelines, especially when you’re watching the team winning. Obviously you’re delighted with the wins but you want to be involved yourself even more. I’ve joined back in with full training and I’m feeling good. I would hope to put my hand up for selection ahead of the La Rochelle game at the Sportsground.”


Challenge Cup Fixtures 2014/15

Connacht La Rochelle Sat 18th Oct The Sportsground 17:00
Exeter Chiefs Connacht Sat 25th Oct Sandy Park 15.00
Connacht         Bayonne 4/5/6/7 Dec The Sportsground TBC
Bayonne Connacht 11/12/13/14 Dec Stade Jean-Dauger TBC
Connacht           Exeter Chiefs 15/16/17/18 Jan The Sportsground TBC
La Rochelle Connacht 22/23/24/25 Jan Stade Marcel Deflandre TBC




Gallery: Connacht v Benetton