Champions Cup trophy

Revealed: Champions Cup and Challenge Cup to undergo radical format change

Champions Cup and Challenge Cup organisers EPCR have announced an overhaul to the tournament formats to come into effect for 2020-21.

An expanded Champions Cup will encompass the top eight sides from the Premiership, PRO 14 and Top 14 to grow from a 20 to 24-team competition.

Qualifying clubs will be split into two pools of 12, with fixtures decided by a complex tier allocation that will restrict teams from the same domestic league from playing return matches.

Tiers will be decided by where teams finish in the 2019-20 season, with the finalists from the Premiership, plus the top two PRO14 and Top 14 designated as ‘Tier 1’; third and fourth as ‘Tier 2’; fifth and sixth as ‘Tier 3’; seventh and eight as ‘Tier 4’.

Advantage for Tier 1 clubs will lie in facing Tier 4 clubs, while Tier 2 and Tier 3 will square off against each other. All teams will play a total of four pool matches; two home and two away fixtures.

In the PRO14, league standings as of Round 13 (fixtures played in March) will be the criteria set for deciding which teams qualify, meaning the Dragons clinch the final spot.

As for the Top 14, all but the last team are known. The winner of a play-off between Montpellier and Castres will join Bordeaux-Begles, Lyon, Racing 92, Toulon, La Rochelle, Clermont Auvergne and Toulouse.

Clubs from the same tier and from the same league will not face each other in a competition that will have its final held in Marseille.

The knockout stage will encompass the top four teams from Pool A and Pool B, with quarter-finals and semi-finals involving home and away legs.

Those who miss out on the top four but finish no lower than eighth will not have their European dreams end. Instead, joining the Challenge Cup Round of 16.

Qualified clubs for the 2020-21 Champions Cup

PRO14: Leinster, Edinburgh, Munster Ulster, Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors, Connacht, Dragons (Rankings TBC at conclusion of current season)

Top 14: Bordeaux-Bègles, Lyon, Racing 92, RC Toulon, La Rochelle, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse, *Montpellier or Castres Olympique

Premiership: TBC

Qualified clubs for 2020-21 Challenge Cup

PRO14: Benetton, Cardiff Blues, Zebre, Ospreys

Top 14: Bayonne, Castres Olympique, Brive, Pau, Agen, Stade Français

Premiership: Newcastle Falcons (A further 3 clubs TBC at conclusion of current season)

The Challenge Cup itself will start with 14 clubs; six from the Top 14, four from the Premiership and four from PRO14 in a single pool.

The tournament knockout stage will consist of a round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals with the final in Marseille on 21 May 2021.

The leading eight clubs, as well as eight representatives from the Heineken Champions Cup, will qualify for the round of 16.

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