Big Euro tournament format changes
NEWS: Following a spectacularly successful season the European competitions will show dramatic changes to its formats for the 2023-24 seasons.
The changes follow a season which included the historic introduction of the top South African teams into its tournaments and record-breaking attendances.
The new competition structures which have been devised in conjunction with the Ligue Nationale de, Premiership and the United Championship signal a modified return to a tried and tested multi-pool format.
Both the Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup will be played over eight weekends with four pool stage rounds and four knockout stage rounds culminating in the London 2024 finals which will be staged at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next May.
“We are delighted to announce the new formats for the 2023/24 season,” EPCR Chairman Dominic McKay said.
“We’ve been working hard with our Leagues and key stakeholders to ensure we have the right competition structures – for players and teams – but also crucially for supporters.
“Our focus has always been to ensure that everyone can easily understand, engage with and follow our tournaments, and also to ensure we have a structure that creates real sporting jeopardy in as many matches as possible.
“We reached this conclusion following a thorough process during which we engaged with stakeholders in a meaningful way – not just our Leagues and unions, but also with our broadcasters, partners and around 1,000 rugby enthusiasts in order to canvass their views.
“We will continue to work with our stakeholders to look at ways in which we can improve both tournaments, an objective which is at the heart of our strategy and commitment to fans, teams and partners.
“Our competitions truly are the pinnacle of professional club rugby, and we have to ensure that they continue to engage and to enthrall existing and new audiences along the way.”
The Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 elite teams with eight representatives from the TOP 14, eight from the Premiership and eight from the United Championship.
The teams will be divided into four pools of six by means of a draw with Champions Cup winners, Stade Rochelais, League winners, Saracens and Munster, as well as the winners of Saturday’s TOP 14 final between Stade Rochelais and Stade Toulousain, making up Tier One with each club drawn into a separate pool at the outset.
If Stade Rochelais happen to win the TOP 14 title, then the Champions Cup Final runners-up, Leinster, will be included in Tier One.
The remaining 20 teams 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 teams 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 Stormers and the Bulls from South Africa will be kept apart during the draw.
* There will be no matches between teams from the same league, so for the purposes of creating the fixtures, each club will play four matches against four different teams 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 teams from each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 and the teams ranked number five in each of the pools will qualify for the knockout stage of the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The EPCR Challenge Cup will be competed for by 18 teams with eight representatives from the URC, six from the TOP 14, two from the Premiership, plus two invited teams which will be announced shortly.
The teams will be drawn or allocated into three pools of six with two TOP 14 teams 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.
Teams will play four different opponents home or away with same-league matches being kept to a minimum, and only impacting teams from the URC. The four highest-ranked teams from each of the pools will qualify for the knockout stage.
The pool draws for the 2023/24 tournaments will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday, June 21.
CHAMPIONS CUP QUALIFIERS for 2023/24
TOP 14 – Stade Rochelais, Stade Toulousain, Racing 92, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Lyon, Stade Français Paris, RC Toulon, Aviron Bayonnais
PREMIERSHIP – Saracens, Sale Sharks, Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs, Bath, Bristol Bears
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – Munster, Stormers, Leinster, Ulster, Glasgow Warriors, Bulls, Connacht, Cardiff
EPCR CHALLENGE CUP QUALIFIERS for 2023/24
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – Sharks, Lions, Benetton, Edinburgh, Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons, Zebre
TOP 14 – Castres Olympique, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Montpellier Herault, Section Paloise, USAP, Oyonnax
PREMIERSHIP – Gloucester, Newcastle Falcons
INVITED – Two teams to be confirmed
Dates for 2023/24
Round 1 – 8/9/10 December 2023
Round 2 – 15/16/17 December 2023
Round 3 – 12/13/14 January 2024
Round 4 – 19/20/21 January 2024
Round of 16 – 5/6/7 April 2024
Quarterfinals – 12/13/14 April 2024
Semifinals – 3/4/5 May 2024
EPCR Challenge Cup Final – Friday 24 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Champions Cup Final – Saturday 25 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium