2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup format

Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup

There will be 24 teams in the newly announced 2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup (also called the European Rugby Champions Cup). This is an increase of 20 teams from the 2019/20 Champions Cup structure.

These teams will include the top eight clubs from Premiership Rugby, Guinness PRO14, and French Top 14. This new format was created because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be used only as an exceptional circumstance.

2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup format

The top four teams in each conference from PRO14 qualifies for the Champions Cup. However, South African teams are not allowed to enter the competition. Therefore, the Cheetahs, who finished fourth in Conference A will not be in the Champions Cup.

Instead, the fifth-best team in Conference A, which is the Dragons from Wales, will appear in the Champions Cup.

The teams will be separated into four tiers. The top two teams of each league will be in Tier 1, third and fourth in Tier 2, fifth and sixth in Tier 3, and finally seventh and eighth in Tier 4. There will be two groups of 12 teams each. There will be one Tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 teams from each league per group.

Tier 1 and Tier 4 teams will play two home and two away games against each other in the group stage. This principle also applies between Tier 2 and 3 teams.

Changes to the Heineken Champions Cup Format

There are some changes to the previous Champions Cup. According to Chris Jones of BBC, the top eight rather than the top six teams make the knockout stage. Furthermore, each team will play four games each in the group stage instead of six.

European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday said about the new format according to Jones of BBC. “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.”

The top four teams from each group make the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals will be a two-leg format while the semifinals and finals will only have one leg. The teams finishing fifth to eighth in the group stage will qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Teams represent the best of European club rugby

In this specific tournament, there will be two Welsh and two Scottish teams and four teams from the island of Ireland. There are also eight English and eight French teams that will appear in the tournament.

The only team known from the Premiership Rugby participating in the tournament is the Exeters from England. The Top 14 teams from France are Bordeaux-Begles, Lyon, Racing 92, Toulon, La Rochelle, Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse, and Montpellier or Castres Olympique. In PRO 14, Welsh teams Dragons and Scarletts, and Scottish teams Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors will be in the tournament. Lastly, the four teams that are from the island of Ireland include Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster will also appear in the tournament.

It is not yet known right now how the seeding of all the teams will be finalized. England has only one team that has qualified, and PRO14 is in the middle of their knockout stages. Yet, it still brings excitement to a year interrupted and with much taken away from fans and European club rugby.

This format is only temporary and was created because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the question is will home and road games take place from December-February? The first game, or games, is scheduled [at this time] to take place on 12 December 2020.

The final will take place at Stade de Marseille on May 22, 2021.


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