In the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, everything came to a standstill, and rugby tournaments also had to come to a pause to halt the spread of the virus. As the situation brightened up and normalcy slowly started to kick in, weeks had been lost and tournament fixtures altered. Leagues that would have otherwise ended are still ongoing with the PRO 14 League almost winding up while the Premier League has a couple of weeks to go.
The New 2020/2021 Season
Initially, 20 teams in total from the Premier League, TOP 14 League and PRO 14 League would qualify for the Champions Cup. But, the new format has increased the number of teams to 24 and has reduced the total number of matches in pools. Home and away matches have only been included in the final stages of the competition—starting from quarter-finals.
Each of the three leagues will have their top eight clubs representing them in the Champions Cup Tournament. The EPCR board decided the new format as a fair strategy to level the playing field for all leagues which were affected differently by the pandemic.
The board also set a date for the finals on May 22, 2021, in Marseille, France.
Let’s Break Down The New Format
The total number of teams will be 24, and each league will contribute a total of eight teams. The teams are then divided into two pools of twelve teams each and categorised into four tiers. Each tier will have two teams from the different leagues. For instance, Tier one will have the first and second teams in the leagues’ standings.
This new system aims to make sure that no two teams belonging to the same league or the same tier play against each other. So, one side will play four matches in total, and teams in Tier one will go against teams in Tier four while Tier two Vs Tier three.
Qualified Clubs So Far
The TOP 14 League was the first to be concluded, and the qualifying clubs were Toulouse, Lyon, Racing 92, Clermont Auvergne, Toulon, La Rochelle, Bordeaux-Begles, and Montpellier or Castres Olympique. Clubs that are in the top eight of the PRO 14 league which is winding up are Glasgow Warriors, Munster, Scarlets, Leinster, Dragons, Edinburgh, Connacht, and Ulster.
The Premiership tournament still has a couple of weeks to go, but if we go by the standings as they are Sale, Wasps, Northampton, Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Gloucester and Harlequins are the clubs currently competing for the Championship Cup positions. The tiers can only be complete when all leagues are concluded, and these are just speculations as of now.
Are You Ready For It?
Simon Halliday, board chairman at European Professional Club Rugby(EPCR), said: “The new Championship Cup will reduce the pool matches and expand the knockout level making it more competitive and creating new opportunities for clubs and fans.” We are all waiting for the time when the stadium gates will be finally opened.
The four top clubs in every pool qualify for the quarter-finals and are on their way to the finals. As for positions 5 -8 in each pool, they move over to the knockout stage of the European Challenge Cup. The new Heineken Championship Cup 2020/2021 season kicks off in November 2020, and we are asking you, are you ready for it?