The European Rugby Champions Cup is the premier club rugby competition in Europe. It replaced the Heineken Cup in 2014 and is organised by European Professional Club Rugby.
The competition came about following concerns held by English and French clubs about the Heineken Cup and the way it was structured. These concerns were mainly around the way funds were distributed and inequities in the qualification process.
In April 2014, the EPCR announced the new competition, along with a new European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new qualifying competition.
The European Rugby Champions Cup will have 20 teams playing in 5 pools of 4 teams. They will play other teams in their pool twice, on a home and away basis. The pool winners and the 3 best runners-up will then progress to the play-offs, which will be quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.
In 2022, there was 2 pools of 12 teams, with 4 rounds of pool play, with each team playing home and away against 2 teams not from the same domestic league.
The top 8 teams from each pool will qualify for the round of 16. The winners from this round will move on to Quarter-Finals. The next 2 teams in each pool will join 12 teams from the European Challenge Cup and play a round of 16 in that competition. This will be knock-out format through to the final.
In 2023 there was 4 pools of 6 teams, with 4 rounds of pool play. Each team played the 4 other teams in their pool that were not from their own domestic league, 2 at home and 2 away. The top 4 teams in each pool qualified for the round of 16. The winners will move on to Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Final. The 5th ranked teams in each pool joined 12 teams from the European Challenge Cup and played a round of 16 in that competition.
Qualification for the competition will be determined by the finishing position teams have in their respective league competitions.
In 2014 the qualifier was determined by a play-off between the 7th placed teams from the Premiership and the Top 14. Those games were played in May 2014.
In 2015 the qualifier was determined by a play-off between the winner of the 2014 Challenge Cup and the highest placed Pro 12 team not already qualified, followed by the winner of that game playing off against the 7th placed team from the Top 14. Those games were played in May 2015.
In 2016, due to the Rugby World Cup the previous year, no qualifying play-offs had been played so the winner of the 2015/16 European Rugby Challenge Cup automatically qualified for the tournament.
In 2017 the qualifier selection returned to the 4 team play-off described above.
In 2018 and 2019 the qualifier was the team that met the following criteria (in this order):
In 2022 and 2023, qualification was based on team positions in their respective domestic leagues and the United Rugby Championship.