European Professional Club Rugby chief executive Vincent Gaillard says South African teams will not be in the Champions Cup next season.
Four South African franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – have gained admission to compete in the extended PRO Rugby competition as of this year and were hoping it would be a stepping stone to Champions Cup and Challenge Cup qualification.
However, Gaillard has stated that a new deal had been signed between EPCR and federations guaranteeing European Cups through until at least 2030.
‘It’s very good news,’ Gaillard told AFP, adding that next season’s format for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will likely be 24 teams divided into two pools of 12.
But he warned that South African franchises would not be part of the elite competition.
‘There will be no South African clubs in the European Cup next season, that’s for sure,’ Gaillard said.
‘In the Challenge Cup, theoretically, it is possible. We are looking at the possibility, but it is quite unlikely. There are details to settle, especially at the Pro 16 level.’
Meanwhile, the EPCR boss also confirmed its counter-proposal to French Rugby Federation [FFR] president Bernard Laporte’s Club World Cup concept.
Laporte said he wanted to see a six-week tournament held annually featuring the six top teams from Super Rugby, the best four from the Premiership, Top 14 and PRO14, and the champions of the Top League and Major League Rugby.
However, Laporte’s proposal was to stage the tournament every year at the expense of the European Champions Cup.
By contrast, the EPCR plans for the Club World Cup to be a four-yearly tournament in an eight-team format with four of the best from each hemisphere, rather than a 20-team global competition as proposed by Laporte.
Gaillard says that they’ve already entered into negotiations with the relevant stakeholders.
‘The project is progressing really very nicely, even if the political environment is never simple,’ he explained.
‘It is moving forward in consultation with all interested stakeholders, including the southern-hemisphere countries and World Rugby.’
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