Champions Cup organisers reveal new format for 24-team competition

European Champions Cup will feature eight sides from PRO14, Premiership and French Top14 as organisers reveal new format for 24-team competition

  • Champions Cup is changing format with expanded competition at 24 teams 
  • It will begin on December 11 after hectic autumn international schedule  
  • Top eight from Premiership, PRO14 and French Top14 will qualify for tournament 
  • Teams will be ranked on domestic end position and placed into one of four ‘tiers’ 
  • A draw will then be made to organise two pools of 12 for the group stage

European Cup organisers confirmed that eight teams from each of the Premiership, PRO14 and French Top14 will qualify for next season’s Champions Cup having revealed its new structure.

The premier continental club tournament will expand to 24 teams next season, from its usual 20, for one season only and will include home-and-away quarter-finals.

It will start on December 11, the weekend after a bumper autumn Test schedule, and the final will take place in May 2021 in Marseille – the proposed venue for this years’ event before coronavirus drastically disrupted the season.

The likes of Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi are set to qualify for the Champions Cup 

Teams will be ranked on their domestic league finishing positions – placed into one of four ‘tiers’ – and then a draw will be made to organise two pools of 12.

Each side will play two others not from their own domestic league home and away in the pool. The top four from each of the two pools will contest two-legged quarter-finals.

The semis and final remain as one match each.

Those who miss out on the Champions Cup quarter-finals but finish between fifth and eighth in their pool will drop into the second-string Challenge Cup last-16 stage.

The Challenge Cup will start with 16 sides, with eight qualifying to play those who have dropped out of the top competition in knockout games.

The new structure for next season’s premier European club competition has been revealed

While a fairly confusing format, the competition will still pit the best against the best in Europe.

In the Champions Cup teams ranked as ‘Tier 1’, having finished first or second on their domestic leagues, will play pool games only against those in ‘Tier 4’, who finished seventh and eighth in their leagues.

‘Tier 2’ sides, those who finish third and fourth in leagues, will only play ‘Tier 3’ clubs, those who finish fifth and sixth in leagues.

In the pools no side will play another from its own league.

The best of the PRO14, Premiership and French Top14 will still be pitted against each other

For example English Premiership table-toppers Exeter Chiefs are destined to be a ‘Tier 1’ side so will be pitted against two ‘Tier 4’ teams home and away – for instance Welsh region Dragons and French side Toulouse.

While the Premiership is yet to be concluded the Top14 and PRO14 qualifiers are now known, as the French rankings are based on their cancelled 2019-20 season and the PRO14 just has playoffs left to decide final positions.

‘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.’


PRO14: Leinster Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby, Munster Rugby, Ulster Rugby, Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors, Connacht Rugby, 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 


PRO14: Benetton Rugby, Cardiff Blues, Zebre Rugby Club, Ospreys

TOP 14: Bayonne, Castres Olympique, Brive, Pau, Agen, Stade Français Paris

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

*NB If not already ranked number one, the winners of the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup will become the second-ranked club from its league. If not already qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup, the winners of the 2020 Challenge Cup will take the place of the eighth-ranked club from its league.

Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of 11/12/13 December

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