Champions Cup Rugby Changes for 2021

We are a little ahead of ourselves with this year’s Quarter Finals still to be played but we now know that the 20/21 European Champions’ Cup in Rugby will get underway on December 11th with a number of key changes.

There will be 24 teams with eight each from the top finishing sides in the Guinness PRO14, Gallaghers Premiership and French Top 14.

We know already that all four of the Irish Provinces will be playing in the group stage at least, an exciting prospect.

The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over eight weekends.

There will be four rounds of matches in the pool stage followed by a knockout stage consisting of home and away quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final in Marseille on 22 May 2021.

For the purposes of the pool draw, the clubs will be separated into tiers, 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.

Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final will have additional importance then, with the winner going into Tier 1 and the loser in Tier 2.

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.

It effectively means that each of the provinces will be an English and a French team home and away.

There are many permutations on how that would look but best to wait and see what the draw throws up at the end of October as many will be hypothetical.

The four highest-ranked clubs in each pool will qualify for the quarter-finals, and the clubs ranked numbers 5 to 8 in each pool will compete in the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup.

The decision to alter the formats for next season on an exceptional basis has been made against the backdrop of the COVID-19 public health crisis and its ongoing impact on the professional club game in Europe.

“With an expanded knockout stage and no repeats of domestic matches during the pool stage, this format creates brand new competitive opportunities for Europe’s elite clubs and their fans,” said EPCR Chairman, Simon Halliday. “In this time of change, the Heineken Champions Cup with its global stars of the game, its passionate supporters and its unique match-day atmosphere undoubtedly remains The One to Win.”

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