Following the landmark announcement of the inclusion of the leading South African clubs in its tournaments, EPCR has confirmed the formats and qualifiers for next season’s EPCR Challenge Cup.
Twenty clubs will play in next season’s EPCR Challenge Cup with eight representatives from the United Rugby Championship, including the Johannesburg-based Lions who will also be making a historic first appearance in an EPCR competition, six from the TOP 14, five from the Premiership, as well as the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein who have accepted an invitation to compete.
The clubs will be divided into two pools of 10 – Pool A and Pool B – and in a similar format to the Heineken Champions Cup, the tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December.
The six highest-ranked clubs from each pool, as well as the 9th and 10th ranked clubs from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, will qualify for a Round of 16, which will be followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final at the Aviva Stadium on 19 May 2023.
The live-streamed draw for the EPCR Challenge Cup pools is scheduled to take place at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday 28 June with the clubs separated into three tiers based on their rankings, and clubs from the same league will not play against one another during the pool stage.
The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs from each league, as well as the number 5 and number 6 ranked clubs from the URC, will be in Tier 2.
The Dragons, Zebre Parma, Aviron Bayonnais, USAP, Bath Rugby and the Cheetahs will be in Tier 3.
The Tier 1 and the Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away over four pool stage rounds.
The Tier 2 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage.
In order to adhere to the key principle of no same-league matches, Tier 2 clubs from the TOP 14 can only play against opposition from the URC, and similarly, Tier 2 clubs from the Premiership can also only play against opposition from the URC.
Further details and timings for the draws for both the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup pools will be communicated shortly.
2022/23 EPCR CHALLENGE CUP QUALIFIERS:
United Rugby Championship: 1 Glasgow Warriors, 2 Scarlets, 3 Connacht Rugby, 4 Lions, 5 Benetton Rugby, 6 Cardiff Rugby, 7 Dragons, 8 Zebre Parma
TOP 14: 1 RC Toulon, 2 Section Paloise, 3 Stade Français Paris, 4 CA Brive, 5 Aviron Bayonnais, 6 USAP
Gallagher Premiership: 1 Wasps, 2 Bristol Bears, 3 Worcester Warriors, 4 Newcastle Falcons, 5 Bath Rugby
2022/23 key dates
- Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022
- Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022
- Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023
- Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023
- Round of 16 – 31 March/ 1/2 April 2023
- Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023
- Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023
- EPCR Challenge Cup final – Friday 19 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin