European Challenge Cup: Holders Gloucester paired with Worcester

Gloucester
European Challenge Cup holders Gloucester have now twice won the trophy - in 2006 and 2015

Holders Gloucester have been paired with promoted Premiership side Worcester, French team La Rochelle and Italian club Zebre in the draw for the 2015-16 European Challenge Cup.

Last year's beaten finalists Edinburgh have drawn two French sides, Grenoble and Top 14 newcomers Agen, as well as London Irish.

There are four other former winners, led by three-times victors Harlequins.

Sale, twice winners, Pau and Cardiff, who won in 2010, were also in the draw.

Cardiff are grouped with Quins -winners in 2001, 2004 and 2011 - Montpellier and Italian side Calvisano.

European Challenge Cup dates 2015-16
Qualifying rounds: Round 1: 12/13/14/15 Nov, Round 2: 19/20/21/22 Nov, Round 3: 10/11/12/13 Dec, Round 4: 17/18/19/20 Dec, Round 5: 14/15/16/17 Jan, Round 6: 21/22/23/24 Jan
Quarter-finals: 7/8/9/10 April Semi-finals: 22/23/24 April
Finals: 13/14 May (Grand Stade de Lyon)

Sale, who won in 2002 and 2005, take on Newport Gwent-Dragons and French sides Pau, who won in 2000, and Castres, the team they beat in that final.

For the first time ever there is a team in from Russia, Enisei-STM, whose home ground is in Krasnoyarsk, 400 miles from Moscow. They have been paired with Connacht, Brive and Newcastle.

Twice winners Gloucester return to Sixways in the group stages having ended their 2014-15 season on Worcester's home ground on 31 May.

Due to Kingsholm being unavailable because of a pop concert, Gloucester staged their European Champions Cup qualifier against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways, which they lost 23-22, forcing them to compete in the Challenge Cup instead.

Qualifying groups

Pool 1: Connacht, Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Enisei-STM

Pool 2: Sale Sharks, Newport Gwent Dragons, Castres, Pau

Pool 3: Montpellier, Harlequins, Cardiff Blues, Calvisano

Pool 4: La Rochelle, Gloucester, Zebre, Warriors

Pool 5: Edinburgh, London Irish, Grenoble, Agen

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