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NEWS: EPCR announced that Black Lion from Georgia and South Africa’s Cheetahs will continue their participation as invited clubs in the EPCR Challenge Cup for the next two seasons following approval from the tournament organiser’s Board.

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The Tbilisi-based Black Lion and the Cheetahs, who will play their home matches in Amsterdam, have fulfilled EPCR’s participation criteria of having a home venue in Europe, as well as the ability to select competitive match day squads and to adhere to the required minimum standards for staging a fixture.

Both clubs have already made significant contributions to the EPCR Challenge Cup on the pitch with the Cheetahs reaching the knockout stage of tournament in both 2022/23 and 2023/24.

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Last season, Black Lion made history by becoming the first Georgian club to participate in an EPCR tournament and their impact was immediate with a superb away victory against the Scarlets, while the Cheetahs’ fixture against Section Paloise in Amsterdam generated a sell-out attendance at the National Rugby Centre Amsterdam known as the NRCA Stadium.

In addition, the recent appointment of the vastly experienced Richard Cockerill to the dual role of Head Coach of Black Lion and the Georgian national team is certain to make the club an even more competitive proposition in the EPCR Challenge Cup in the future.

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“We are honoured that the Cheetahs have been invited to participate in the 2024/25 and 2025/26 seasons of this esteemed competition,” the Cheetahs CEO Ross van Reenen said.

“We eagerly anticipate returning to Amsterdam as our home base, especially following the success of record attendance and sell-out at the NRCA Stadium. Being part of this prestigious international competition is significant for us, and I sincerely thank the EPCR and SA Rugby for this incredible opportunity.”

EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay commented: “We are absolutely delighted to invite Black Lion to continue their EPCR Challenge Cup journey for the next two seasons.

“The inclusion of Black Lion and the continuation of the Cheetahs’ participation reflect a commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent to fans worldwide. The Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”

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Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years.

“We’re grateful to EPCR for taking the lead and showing the vision that is needed to further the global development and growth of the game.

“My personal gratitude to Dominic McKay and his amazing team for their hard work and support.”

EPCR will continue to engage with Rugby Europe and World Rugby on common strategic goals which could in the future include the development of a meritocratic pathway into the EPCR Challenge Cup or long-term invitations for competitive clubs with ambitious development plans.

The 18 clubs in the 2024/25 EPCR Challenge Cup will once again compete in three pools of six, and the Pool Draws for next season are scheduled for Tuesday, July 2 in Cardiff. Full details of the event will be communicated shortly.

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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