THE Dragons won't face a short trip to Bristol in the European Challenge Cup after the clubs were paired in the same tier for next week's draw.

The pools for the tournament will be decided at 2pm next Wednesday in Switzerland before the Champions Cup draw.

The 20 teams are divided into four tiers based on their qualifying positions from their respective leagues. Each pool then contains a club from each tier.

The Dragons are in tier three along with Bristol and Agen (plus two other clubs yet to be decided), meaning that they will not make the short trip to Ashton Gate or Stade Armandie.

Tier one contains La Rochelle, Sale and Benetton with a draw taking place to select the final two from Pau, Northampton and the Ospreys.

The Dragons CANNOT draw another PRO14 side, ruling out the Italians and the Ospreys as potential foes, leaving La Rochelle, Sale, Pau and the Saints.

The only other certainty is that the Dragons will face a team from the Tier five quintet of the French trio of Stade Francais, Perpignan and Grenoble plus the two minnows Enisei-STM and Timisoara Saracens.

Tier two contains French giants Clermont Auvergne and Harlequins along with Connacht (who the Dragons cannot draw) and will feature the team that was not drawn in tier one.

They will be joined by fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into tier one (Bordeaux-Begles if it’s Pau, Worcester if it’s Northampton and Zebre if it’s the Ospreys). The remaining two will then join the Dragons in Tier Three.

The Challenge Cup features five teams from the PRO14 and five teams from the English Premiership, which both leagues will provide a club to all five pools.

European Challenge Cup teams

Guinness PRO14 (5): Benetton Rugby, Ospreys, Connacht Rugby, Zebre Rugby Club, Dragons

Gallagher Premiership Rugby (5): Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Worcester Warriors, Bristol Bears

TOP 14 (8): La Rochelle, Pau, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Bordeaux-Bègles, Agen, Stade Français Paris, Perpignan, Grenoble

Continental Shield (2): Enisei-STM, Timisoara Saracens


One: La Rochelle, Sale, Benetton (plus two of Pau, Northampton or Ospreys)

Two: Clermont, Harlequins, Connacht (plus either Pau and Bordeaux-Begles, Northampton and Worcester or Ospreys and Zebre).

Three: Agen, Bristol, Dragons (plus two of Bordeaux-Begles, Worcester or Zebre).

Four: Stade Francais, Perpignan, Grenoble, Enisei-STM, Timisoara Saracens

European weekends

Round 1: 12/13/14 October

Round 2: 19/20/21 October

Round 3: 7/8/9 December

Round 4: 14/15/16 December

Round 5: 11/12/13 January 2019

Round 6: 18/19/20 January 2019

Quarter-finals: 29/30/31 March 2019

Semi-finals: 19/20/21 April 2019

2019 Newcastle finals

Challenge Cup final: Friday 10 May, St James’ Park

Continental Shield final: TBC, Kingston Park

Champions Cup final: Saturday 11 May, St James’ Park