Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced plans to introduce a new format to the Heineken Champions Cup, altering how it is played.
24 clubs will compete in the competition, an expansion from the usual 20. The clubs will include the highest ranked eight from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP14.
The teams will be drawn into two pools of 12, with teams from the same league and tier not being in the same pool. Teams ranked 1 and 2 from each league will be in Tier 1, ranked 3 and 4 in Tier 2, ranked 5 and 6 in Tier 3 and finally ranked 7 and 8 in Tier 4. During the pool stage, there will be 4 rounds of matches, followed by a knockout stage with home and away legs, including quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final which will take place in Marseille on May 22, 2021.
The four highest-ranked teams from each pool will qualify for the quarter-finals, however, teams that do not qualify for the knockout stages will drop out into the Challenge Cup’s knockout stages.
Tier 1 and Tier 4 teams which are in the same pool and different leagues will play each other home and away within the pool stages, as will Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams in the same pool but different leagues.
EPCR Chairman Simon Holiday said: “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.”
“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.”
Based on league positions at this moment this is how the tiers would shape up:
Tier 1 - Exeter, Sale, Leinster, Edinburgh, Bordeaux, Lyon
Tier 2 - Bristol, Wasps, Munster, Ulster, Racing 92, Toulon
Tier 3 - Bath, Northampton, Scarlets, Glasgow, Clermont Auvergne, La Rochelle
Tier 4 - Harlequins, Gloucester, Connacht, Dragons, Toulouse, Montpellier/Castres
Author: Bradleigh Amis