Connacht and Ulster will both play their EPCR Challenge Cup round of 16 matches on Sunday, April 7, travelling to French clubs Pau and Montpellier respectively.

 

The road to London, and the final which will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday, May 24, will become clearer once the knockout stages get under way in early April.

 

The teams that are in contention to win the Challenge Cup title include Connacht, Ulster, Bayonne, and Sale Sharks, who all finished fifth in their respective Investec Champions Cup pools.

 

There are five former champions in the mix – three-time winners Clermont Auvergne, Gloucester and Sale, along with Pau and Montpellier who will provide the opposition for the provinces in the last 16.

Pete Wilkins’ charges marked the renaming of the Sportsground to Dexcom Stadium with a stirring 27-10 win over 14-man Bristol Bears. Winger and player-of-the-match Andrew Smith supplied their bonus point with a 45th-minute try in the right corner.

 

Smith was just three years of age when Connacht last played Pau, advancing through a two-legged Challenge Cup second round on aggregate. Despite losing 10-6 at Stade du Hameau, the westerners had done enough by winning the previous week’s home match, 29-7.

 

They made it through to the semi-finals that season, bowing out to eventual champions Harlequins, and will hope to get another cup run going after losing in the round of 16 to both Leicester, in 2021, and Benetton last year.

 

The Pau-Connacht clash will bring the round of 16 fixtures to a close, kicking off at 6.30pm local time/5.30pm Irish time on Sunday, April 7. Currently sixth in the Top 14, Pau posted Challenge Cup pool wins over the Dragons (24-21), the Cheetahs (33-20), and Zebre Parma (28-27).

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