"European Change-Up" - New Formats Confirmed for Champions Cup and Challenge Cup - Ruck

“European Change-Up” – New Formats Confirmed for Champions Cup and Challenge Cup

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has confirmed that the 2023/24 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup will have altered formats from that of last season.

The two European competitions will return to a ‘multi-pool format’, with four pools each, instead of the two-pool format that was criticised by fans and pundits. Last season’s competition was considered to lack clarity, and was made all the more complicated by the mid-season withdrawals of Wasps and Worcester Warriors.

The 2023/24 competition will be played over eight round, this consists of four pool stage rounds and four knockout rounds. The final will be held at the state of the art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, on the weekend of Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of May 2024.

Heineken Champions Cup

  • 24 Clubs Compete – Eight each from the Premiership, URC and Top 14
  • Teams will be drawn into 4 Pools of 6
  • Maximum of two teams from the same league in a pool.
  • Teams from the same URC shield cannot be in the same pool.
  • No matches will be played between clubs from the same league
  • Four matches will be played against four clubs from different leagues.
  • After Four Rounds, the Top 4 from each group advance to Round of 16
  • Fifth Placed team in each group drops into the Challenge Cup
  • Sixth placed team is eliminated

Qualified Teams:

Try Celebrations for Jack Nowell of Exeter Chiefs during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool A match between Exeter Chiefs and Castres Olympique at Sandy Park, Exeter on 21st January 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

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 Rugby, Bristol Bears (replacing London Irish)

UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – Munster Rugby, Stormers, Leinster Rugby, Ulster Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Bulls, Connacht Rugby, Cardiff Rugby

EPCR Challenge Cup

Montpellier Captain’s Run, Twickenham, London, England 20/5/2021 A view of the Challenge Cup Trophy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan/PPAUK
  • 18 Teams Qualify for the Challenge Cup
  • 18 Teams will be divided into three Pools of 6
  • Teams in the same URC Shield group will be kept apart
  • Teams from the Premiership will be kept apart
  • Two ‘Invitational’ teams will be kept apart
  • Same-league matches will be kept to a minimum
  • After 4 Rounds, the Top 4 from each Pool advance to the knock-out stages.

Qualified Teams

Ollie Thorley of Gloucester Rugby on the break during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Gloucester Rugby and Harlequins at Kingsholm on 17 February. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – Sharks, Lions, Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby, Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons RFC, Zebre Parma

TOP 14 – Castres Olympique, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Montpellier Herault Rugby, Section Paloise, USAP, Oyonnax Rugby

PREMIERSHIP – Gloucester Rugby, Newcastle Falcons

There has been increased speculation around who the two unconfirmed ‘invitational teams’ will be. Reports have circulated that Israeli side Tel Aviv and Georgian club Black Lion are going to be invited. Other reports suggest that RFU Championship clubs Ealing Trailfinders, Jersey Reds and Coventry have applied to play in the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup.

EPCR Chairman Dominic McKay was pleased to announce the changes;

“We are delighted to announce the new formats for the 2023/24 season. We’ve been working hard with our Leagues and key stakeholders to ensure we have the right competition structures – for players and clubs – but also crucially for supporters,” McKay said (via Planet Rugby).

“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.”

“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 Pools for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will be drawn on June 21st at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.