European Rugby Champions Cup

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European Rugby Champions Cup
Current season or competition:
2014–15 European Rugby Champions Cup
European Rugby Champions Cup Logo
European Rugby Champions Cup Logo
Sport Rugby union
Inaugural season 2014–15
Number of teams 20
Nations  England
Ireland Ireland
Website EPCR Website
Related competitions European Rugby Challenge Cup
Qualifying Competition

The European Rugby Champions Cup is one of two annual European rugby union competitions organised annually by European Professional Club Rugby, to begin in the 2014–15 season. It has replaced the Heineken Cup as the top tier competition for clubs whose countries' national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship.



The EPCR Champions Cup differs in format to the 24-team Heineken Cup, the main differences being a result of a reduction in the number of teams entered into the competition.

A total of 20 teams will qualify for the competition, 19 of these teams will qualify automatically based on position in their respective leagues:

  • England: 6 teams, based on position in the English Premiership
  • France: 6 teams, based on position in the Top 14
  • Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales: 7 teams, based on performance in the Pro12.
    • The best placed team from each country in the Pro12 will qualify for the competition (4 places)
    • The remaining three places will be awarded to the highest ranked teams in the Pro12 not already qualified (3 places)

20th Team Play-Off[edit]

The final team each season qualifies through a play-off competition between the best placed unqualified teams.

  • For the 2014-15 season, this was a two legged play-off between the 7th placed teams in the Top 14 and the English Premiership. The team with the highest aggregate score over the two legs advancing to the Champions Cup.
  • For the 2015-16 season, there will be a 3-team play-off; the 7th-placed team in the English Premiership will play the 8th-placed (or highest non-qualified) team from the PRO 12, with the winner playing the 7th-placed team in the Top 14.[1]


Group stage[edit]

For the pool stage there are five pools of four teams. The teams are ranked based on domestic league performance the previous season, and arranged into four tiers of five teams. Teams are then drawn from the tiers into pools at random, with the restriction that no pool shall contain two teams from the same country or league, until the allocation of Tier 4, which contains the 6th English and French teams, the 6th and 7th Pro12 team and the winner of the play-off.[2]

Teams will play the other three teams in the pool twice, at home and away, and match points will be awarded depending on the result of each game, with teams receiving four points for a win, and two for a draw. Teams can also earn 1 try bonus point for scoring four or more tries, and 1 losing bonus point for losing a match by seven points or fewer.[3]

Following the completion of the pool stage, the five pool winners, and the three best pool runners-up qualify for the knock-out stage.[4]

Knock-out stage[edit]

The eight quarter-finalists are seeded - pool winners from 1-5, and runners-up from 6-8 - based on performance in their respective pool. The four pool winners with the best pool record receive home advantage for the quarter-finals against one of the lower-seeded teams. The quarter-final are unbracketed, and follow the standard 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 format, as found in the Heineken Cup.[3]

The winners of the quarter-finals will contest the two semi-finals, matches and home country advantage will be determined by a draw by EPCR, and the winners of the semi-finals will contest the final, which will be held no later than the first weekend of May each season.[5]



English and French rugby union clubs had long held concerns over the format and structure of the Heineken Cup organised by European Rugby Cup (ERC), predominantly in relation to the distribution of funds and an imbalance in the qualification process.[6] Some proposals had been made that, in future, rather than Ireland, Wales and Scotland each sending their top-placed teams in the Celtic League/Pro 12 to the Heineken Cup, the top teams from the league as a whole should be sent, regardless of nationality. This founding principle was eventually conceded however, when it was agreed that the top-placed teams from Italy, Scotland, Wales and Ireland should participate in the new European competition.[7]

In June 2012, Premiership Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, on behalf of the English and French clubs respectively, gave ERC two years notice of withdrawing from the Heineken Cup and also the second tier Amlin Cup competitions from the start of the 2014–15 season.[8]

In September 2012, Premiership Rugby announced a new four-year TV deal worth £152m with BT Sport including rights for English clubs’ European games. ERC responded with claims that Premier Rugby did not have the rights to a European tournament and announced a four-year deal with Sky Sports. Subsequently, in September 2013, the English and French clubs announced their intention to organise their own tournament, to be named the Rugby Champions Cup, from 2014–15 season onwards, and invited other European clubs, provinces and regions to join them.

On 22 October 2013, Regional Rugby Wales, on behalf of the four Welsh regions, confirmed its full support for the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup.[9] Negotiations for both a new Heineken Cup and Rugby Champions Cup were then ongoing.[10]


On 10 April 2014, following almost two years of negotiations, a statement was released under the aegis of European Professional Club Rugby announcing that the nine stakeholders to the new competition, the six unions and three umbrella club organisations (Premiership Rugby, Ligue Nationale de Rugby and Regional Rugby Wales), had signed Heads of Agreement for the formation of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new, third tournament, called the Qualifying Competition.[11] On the same day, BT and Sky signed an agreement that divided coverage of the new European competitions. Both will split the pool matches, quarter-finals, and semi-finals equally, and both will broadcast the final. BT will get first choice of English Premiership club matches in the Champions Cup, with Sky receiving the same privilege for the Challenge Cup.[12]


Season Winner Score Runner-up Venue Attendance
2014–15 TBC v TBC Twickenham Stadium, London

Media coverage[edit]


The European Rugby Champions Cup trophy was unveiled in October 2014.[18] The trophy is made of mixed metals including sterling silver and 18ct gold plating and was crafted at Thomas Lyte in London. It has a five handle star cup design and cornet reflecting crowning of Kings of Europe and weights 13.5kg with a height of 70cm.[19]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Accessed 8 June 2014
  3. ^ a b Rules - EPCR Website
  4. ^ "Future of European Rugby resolved" (Press release). Rugby Football Union. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  5. ^ - European Rugby Statement
  6. ^ "French clubs withdraw threat to down Heineken". 10 January 2007. 
  7. ^ Reid, Alasdair. "Scots approach Welsh proposal with caution". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  8. ^ Foy, Chris (10 September 2013). "English and French clubs pull out of Heineken cup and pledge to go it alone". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Welsh regions support Champions Cup". ESPN Scrum. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Background to the European rugby dispute". BBC Sport. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  11. ^ European Rugby Statement, The Rugby Paper 10/4/14
  12. ^ "BT and Sky sign joint agreement over European rugby". ESPN Scrum. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  13. ^ European Rugby Broadcast Statement, The Rugby Paper 10/4/14
  14. ^ Radio partners sign up for Champions Cup - 25/9/14
  15. ^ Droits audiovisuels des Coupes d'Europe de rugby (French)
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ "Euro cup has to wait for new sponsors". ESPN. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Prestigious new European Professional Club Rugby trophies unveiled". 4 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.