EPCR tournament formats and qualifiers confirmed

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Following the landmark announcement of the inclusion of the leading South African teams in its tournaments, EPCR has confirmed the formats and qualifiers for next season’s expanded Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup.

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The 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 elite clubs with eight representatives from the United Rugby Championship (URC) – including historic first appearances by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks – as well as eight representatives from the Gallagher Premiership and eight from the French Top 14.

The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B – and the tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting next December when La Rochelle begin the defence of their title.

The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the showpiece final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on 20 May, 2023.

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The draw for the Heineken Champions Cup pools, which will be live-streamed from the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday 28 June, will be carried out on the same lines as last season with the clubs separated into four tiers based on their rankings, and clubs from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.

The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs will be in Tier 2, the number 5 and 6 ranked clubs will be in Tier 3, and the number 7 and number 8 ranked clubs will be Tier 4.

The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage, as will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.

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Meanwhile, 20 clubs will play in next season’s EPCR Challenge Cup with eight representatives from the URC, including the Johannesburg-based Lions who will also be making a historic first appearance in an EPCR competition, six from the TOP 14, five from the Premiership, as well as the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein who have accepted an invitation to compete.

The clubs will be divided into two pools of 10 – Pool A and Pool B – and in a similar format to the Heineken Champions Cup, the tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December.

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The six highest-ranked clubs from each pool, as well as the ninth and 10th ranked clubs from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, will qualify for a Round of 16, which will be followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final at the Aviva Stadium on 19 May, 2023.

The live-streamed draw for the EPCR Challenge Cup pools is also scheduled to take place at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, 28 June with the clubs separated into three tiers based on their rankings, and clubs from the same league will not play against one another during the pool stage.

The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs from each league, as well as the number 5 and number 6 ranked clubs from the URC, will be in Tier 2. The Dragons, Zebre Parma, Aviron Bayonnais, USAP, Bath Rugby and the Cheetahs will be in Tier 3.

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The Tier 1 and the Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away over four pool stage rounds.

The Tier 2 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage. In order to adhere to the key principle of no same-league matches, Tier 2 clubs from the TOP 14 can only play against opposition from the URC, and similarly, Tier 2 clubs from the Premiership can also only play against opposition from the URC.

Further details and timings for the draws for both the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup pools will be communicated shortly.

2022/23 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP QUALIFIERS

TOP 14: Castres Olympique, Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Toulousain, 5 Stade Rochelais, 6 Racing 92, 7 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 8 Lyon

Gallagher Premiership: Leicester Tigers, Saracens, 3 Harlequins, 4 Northampton Saints, 5 Gloucester Rugby, 6 Sale Sharks, 7 Exeter Chiefs, 8 London Irish

Vodacom United Rugby Championship: 1 Stormers, 2 Bulls, 3 Leinster Rugby, 4 Ulster Rugby, 5 Sharks, 6 Munster Rugby, 7 Edinburgh Rugby, 8 Ospreys

2022/23 EPCR CHALLENGE CUP QUALIFIERS

United Rugby Championship: 1 Glasgow Warriors, 2 Scarlets, 3 Connacht Rugby, 4 Lions, 5 Benetton Rugby, 6 Cardiff Rugby, 7 Dragons, 8 Zebre Parma

TOP 14: 1 RC Toulon, 2 Section Paloise, 3 Stade Français Paris, 4 CA Brive, 5 Aviron Bayonnais, 6 USAP

Gallagher Premiership: 1 Wasps, 2 Bristol Bears, 3 Worcester Warriors, 4 Newcastle Falcons, 5 Bath Rugby

Invited: Cheetahs

2022/23 key dates
Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022
Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022
Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023
Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023
Round of 16 – 31 March / 1/2 April 2023
Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023
Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023
EPCR Challenge Cup final – Friday, 19 May, 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday, 20 May, 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin



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