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.
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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.
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):
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues that delayed the finish of the 2019/20 season, the European Rugby Champions Cup will be run on a different format for 2020/21 season.
There will be 2 pools of 12 teams. There will be 4 rounds of pool play, with teams from the same domestic league not playing each other.
Qualification was based on team positions in their respective domestic leagues and the Pro 14.
The top 4 teams from each pool will qualify for Quarter-Finals. These will be a 2 match, home and away series with the winners moving on to the Semi-Finals.
The next 4 teams in each pool will join the top eight 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.
COVID-19 caused further problems for the competition when the season was suspended after the first 2 rounds. In late February 2021 it was announced that Rounds 3 & 4 were cancelled and a new format would be used to complete the competition.
There would be Round of 16 matches followed by the knock-out stages. The Round of 16 matches would be determined by a draw.
The 8 highest placed teams in each Pool at the time of the suspension of play qualified for the Round of 16. Teams from the same league cannot be drawn against one another. Teams which had won both pool stage matches on the pitch (that is; not COVID-19 affected results) will get home advantage.
The other 8 teams will play in a Round of 16 against the best 8 teams from the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Following the Round of 16 an open draw will be held to determine the quarter-final matches. Teams from the same league may end up playing against each other.