LEINSTER CAN ONCE again plan a Fever in the Aviva series this winter after today’s confirmation that they will play Clermont Auvergne in back-to-back December fixtures.
The teams met in identical circumstances in 2010 and battled out a thrilling Heineken Cup semi-final last April.
Now, Joe Schmidt must pit his wits against his former employers twice more in quick succession: on Sunday December 9 and the following Saturday (December 15) at the Aviva Stadium.
The opening round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of October 11; that Friday night will see losing finalists Ulster kick the competition off against Castres at Ravenhill.
Munster will travel to Paris to face Racing Metro at the Stade de France on October 12 as Leinster kick off their defence of the crown in the RDS against, Heineken Cup debutants, Exeter Chiefs.
Connacht too are in action that Saturday afternoon and will look to claim a second consecutive European win when they travel to Parma to meet the new franchise, Zebre.
The December double header will pit the western province against Biarritz on consecutive Fridays, while Munster and Ulster will be up against their respective English counterparts.
Ulster travel to face Northampton, who defeated the northern province in the 2011 quarter-final, in Franklins Gardens on Friday December 7 and return to Ravenhill the following Saturday. Munster host Saracens on December 8 with a decision yet to be made on whether Sarries will use Twickenham as a home venue on Sunday December 16.
Dates and times are not yet finalised for the crucial final pool fixtures in the new year, but the sixth round will be the reverse of round one and played on the weekend of January 18, meaning away days for Leinster and Ulster.
With European rugby’s show-piece final taking place in Dublin on May 18 next year, there will be no decrease in the anticipation surrounding the Irish provinces this year. You can find the full list of fixtures and kick off times here.