The European Rugby Champions Cup Explained

This season marks the introduction of the new European rugby cups. Gone is the Heineken Cup and the ERC and in comes the new EPCR. The whole layout has changed, most importantly the qualifying terms. Confused? Don’t worry the LADS over at EPCR have put together a piece explaining everything and here it is:

Following changes both to qualification and to the number of participants introduced by new tournament organiser, EPCR, no club can afford to take its eye off what needs to be done to ensure a coveted place in the 2015/16 Champions Cup.

It will be harder than ever to book a spot in Europe’s premier tournament with the number of competing clubs reduced from 24 to 20 in five pools of four.

The elite 20 clubs will all have to qualify on merit through their leagues – the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and Guinness PRO12.

Unlike in years gone by, the winners of the 2014/15 Champions Cup and the winners of the 2014/15 Challenge Cup will not automatically qualify for the following season’s Champions Cup.

Previously, all clubs from the PRO12 could, in theory, qualify for the Heineken Cup, and the clubs from Italy and Scotland were also guaranteed their places, while no more than seven clubs could qualify from both the Premiership and the Top 14.

This season, the seven highest-ranked clubs in the Guinness PRO12 will qualify with the proviso that at least one club from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales is included. 

The Top 14 and Aviva Premiership will both provide six clubs each based on their finishing positions in their leagues with qualification as a winner of the LV= Cup also removed.

The 20th Champions Cup spot will be secured via a play-off series involving the seventh-ranked club from the Top 14, the seventh-ranked club from the Aviva Premiership, and the eighth and ninth-ranked clubs from the Guinness PRO12 (or the two highest-ranked clubs which have not already qualified automatically).
Check out our simple guide to European qualification below.

Qualification for the 2015/16 Champions Cup

  • Guinness PRO12: The seven highest-ranked clubs based on their finishing positions in the league. The seven qualifiers must include at least one club from each of Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
  • Top 14: The six highest-ranked clubs based on their finishing positions in the league.
  • Aviva Premiership: The six highest-ranked clubs based on their finishing positions in the league.For the 2014/15 season, the 20th qualifier was determined by a play-off over two legs between the clubs ranked seventh in the Aviva Premiership and the Top 14.

For 2015/16 and subsequent seasons, the seventh-ranked club from the Top 14, the seventh-ranked club from the Aviva Premiership, and the eighth and ninth-ranked clubs from the Guinness PRO12 (or the two highest-ranked clubs which have not already qualified automatically) will compete in a play-off series for the 20th place in the Champions Cup.

Qualification for the 2015/16 Challenge Cup

  • The remaining 18 clubs from the Top 14, the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness PRO12 which have not qualified for the Champions Cup.
  • Two clubs qualify via a Challenge Cup play-off series featuring clubs from emerging countries and the Italian Eccellenza league.

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