The crème de la crème of northern hemisphere rugby go head-to-head in the battle for the sport’s biggest honours in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions.
Club sides from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy will all be vying to rip the trophy from Leinster, who last season became only the second side to both successfully retain the title and lift a third European honour.
The fourth round of the pool stages takes place this weekend, and Sky Sports will screen 11 live Heineken Cup games as well as one match from the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Coverage kicks off with a full preview of the weekend’s encounters on Thursday night, ahead of a live Challenge Cup pool 3 clash between London Wasps and Bayonne.
Wasps battled back from a 10-point deficit to secure a 13-13 draw at Bayonne last weekend, and the sides meet again at Adams Park in what will effectively be the pool decider.
On Friday night, live coverage of round four of the Heineken Cup begins with Edinburgh v Racing Metro on Sky Sports 2 (k/o 8pm), with Biarritz v Connacht live on the Red Button.
Edinburgh, who reached the semi-finals in last season’s competition, slumped to their third defeat in a row in the Heineken Cup last weekend against the same opponents, a result which all but ends their involvement in the competition.
Six live games will be broadcast on Saturday, beginning with the pool two clash at the Liberty Stadium between Ospreys and Toulouse (k/o 1.30pm), plus Treviso v Leicester behind the Red Button.
Both sides will know what they are up against this afternoon having faced each other in the reverse fixture at the Stade Ernest Wallon last weekend, with Toulouse earning an impressive 30-14 victory.
The focus then switches to the Aviva Stadium, where defending champions Leinster face Clermont Auvergne in pool five (k/o 3.40pm), plus Exeter v Scarlets on the Red Button.
The French outfit earned a hard-fought 15-12 home win when the sides met last week, ending Leinster’s long unbeaten run in the competition.
Another victory today would leave them all but certain of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Saturday evening’s finale sees Ulster face Northampton Saints at Ravenhill in pool four (k/o 6.00pm), plus Montpellier v Cardiff Blues behind the Red Button.
Last season’s runners-up Ulster have won their opening three matches of the campaign, including an impressive 25-6 victory in Northampton last weekend.
Then on Sunday, a further three live games feature on Sky Sports 2, starting with Castres against Glasgow Warriors in pool four (k/o 12.45pm).
The two sides meet at Stade Pierre-Antoine following their try-free encounter last weekend.
Castres earned a 9-6 away win when the sides met in Scotland last week to maintain their chances of catching Ulster at the top of the table and leave the Warriors without a win from their opening three matches.
Concluding the live action from round four of the Heineken Cup will be the pick of the weekend’s ties when Saracens play host to Munster at Vicarage Road (k/o 3.00pm), with Toulon v Sale on the Red Button.
Both teams made strong starts to this season’s competition and were the early front-runners in the pool, which also includes Racing Metro 92 and Edinburgh.
Plus, S4C viewers can watch Newport Gwent Dragon’s pool clash in Amlin Challenge Cup against Mogliano Rugby live on Sunday evening.
Sky Sports will be the only place to follow all the action from the 2012/13 Heineken Cup, with a plethora of live games from the opening round through to the final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday, May 18.
Alex Payne and James Gemmell will present Sky Sports’ live coverage of both competitions, with expert analysis and comment from Will Greenwood, Dewi Morris, Dean Ryan, Paul Wallace, Scott Quinnell and many more.
Commentary on all the big games will be led by Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes. Other members of the commentary team include Johnnie Hammond, Mark Robson, Martin Gillingham, Simon Ward, Ieuan Evans, Scott Hastings and Andrew Cotter.
Welsh language channel S4C will have free-to-air highlights of the competition throughout the season, with selected live games from Amlin Challenge Cup featuring Welsh teams.
Unlike during the previous two seasons, ITV4 will not be showing Heineken Cup highlights on Monday evenings. They are no longer a broadcast partners due to “pure commercial realities”, according to ERC’s chief executive Derek McGrath.
On radio, BBC 5 live, 5 live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website will have live commentary of selected matches. CLICK HERE for details.
Details of how to follow Round 4 of the 2012/13 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup below:
Indicates Heineken Cup / Amlin Challenge Cup matches Thursday 13th December London Wasps v Bayonne – Pool 3 Kick-off: 19:45 | LIVE – 7.00pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 1 Friday 14th December Edinburgh v Racing Metro 92 – Pool 1 Kick-off: 20:00 | LIVE – 7.30pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Biarritz v Connacht – Pool 3 Kick-off: 20:00 | LIVE – Sky Sports 2 (Red Button) Saturday 15th December Ospreys v Toulouse – Pool 2 Kick-off: 13:35 | LIVE – 1.00pm-3.30pm – Sky Sports 1 Treviso v Leicester Tigers – Pool 2 Kick-off: 13:35 | LIVE – Sky Sports 1 (Red Button) Leinster v Clermont Auvergne – Pool 5 Kick-off: 15:40 | LIVE – 3.30pm-5.45pm – Sky Sports 1 Exeter Chiefs v Scarlets – Pool 5 Kick-off: 13:35 | LIVE – Sky Sports 1 (Red Button) Ulster v Northampton Saints – Pool 4 Kick-off: 18:00 | LIVE – 5.45pm-8.00pm – Sky Sports 1 Montpellier v Cardiff Blues – Pool 6 Kick-off: 18:00 | LIVE – Sky Sports 1 (Red Button) Match Highlights: Cwpan Heineken (Welsh language, English subtitles) Feat. Ospreys v Toulouse, Montpellier v Cardiff Blues 9.30pm-10.30pm – S4C Sunday 16th December Castres v Glasgow Warriors – Pool 6 Kick-off: 12:45 | LIVE – 12.30pm-2.45pm – Sky Sports 2 Saracens v Munster – Pool 5 Kick-off: 15:00 | LIVE – 2.45pm-5.30pm – Sky Sports 2 Toulon v Sale Sharks – Pool 2 Kick-off: 15:00 | LIVE – Sky Sports 2 (Red Button) Newport Gwent Dragons v Mogliano Rugby – Pool 3 Kick-off: 17:35 | LIVE – 5.20pm-7.45pm – S4C Match Highlights: European Rugby Special 10.00pm-11.00pm – Sky Sports 3 . . .
Sky Sports subscribers can follow every Heineken Cup match via the Sky Sports Events Centre – CLICK HERE
Keep up to date with all the latest Heineken Cup reports, score flashes and results by logging onto the Sky Sports rugby union website, or by following Sky Sports’ dedicated rugby union Twitter feed (@SkySportsRugby).
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