The EPCR has announced an overhaul of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, with a return to a multi-pool format for the 2023-24 season.
Following a spectacularly successful season which included the historic introduction of the top South African clubs into its tournaments, record-breaking attendances and two memorable finals, the EPCR is on Wednesday announced new formats for the 2023-24 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
The Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 elite clubs with eight representatives from the TOP 14, eight from the Premiership and eight from the Vodacom United Rugby Championship (URC).
The clubs will be divided into four pools of six by means of a draw with Champions Cup winners, La Rochelle, Premiership and URC league winners, Saracens and Munster, as well as the winners of Saturday’s TOP 14 final between La Rochelle and Toulouse, making up Tier 1 with each club drawn into a separate pool at the outset.
If La Rochelle happen to win the TOP 14 title, then the Champions Cup final runners-up, Leinster, will be included in Tier 1.
The remaining 20 clubs will make up Tier 2 and will be either drawn or allocated into the four pools by means of an ‘open’ draw with the following in-built key principles:
- There can only be a maximum of two clubs from the same league in each pool.
- Clubs from the same URC Shield cannot be in the same pool. Therefore, the Irish qualifiers – Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht – will each be in a different pool, and similarly, the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls from South Africa will be kept apart during the draw.
- There will be no matches between clubs from the same league, so for the purposes of creating the fixtures, each club will play four matches against four different clubs who are not from the same league either home or away during the pool stage.
At the conclusion of the pool stage, the four highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 and the clubs ranked number five in each of the pools will qualify for the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup.
The Challenge Cup will work on a similar principle, with 18 clubs, including the Sharks and Lions, drawn or allocated into three pools of six with two TOP 14 clubs in each pool. Clubs from the same URC Shield and from the Premiership, as well as the two invitees, will be kept apart during the draw.
Clubs will play four different opponents home or away with same-league matches being kept to a minimum, and only impacting clubs from the URC. The four highest-ranked clubs from each of the pools will qualify for the knockout stage.
The Challenge Cup will be competed for by eight representatives from the URC, six from the TOP 14, two from the Premiership, plus two invited clubs which will be announced shortly.
The pool draws for the 2023-24 tournaments will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday 21 June and will be broadcast live.
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