With European club rugby’s big quarter-finals weekend now only days away, EPCR has announced its key dates for 2015/16 ahead of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup knockout stages and confirmed the details of the Champions Cup play-off matches for the next three seasons.
As Rugby World Cup 2015 dominates the landscape in the autumn, EPCR’s tournaments will get underway later than the customary date with the 2015/16 kick-off scheduled for mid-November just under a fortnight after the World Cup decider.
The tournaments will then revert to their customary dates during December and January 2016 with the quarter-finals and semi-finals set for April 2016. Next season’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will take place on the weekend of May 13/14, 2016.
Nineteen teams will qualify on merit for the 2015/16 Champions Cup based on their finishing positions in the Aviva Premiership, GUINNESS PRO12 and the Top 14 with the 20th place in the tournament going to the winners of the play-offs.
In order to avoid fixture congestion during May, the play-offs will have a shortened format and will feature only one club from each of the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and GUINNESS PRO12.
To facilitate the Rugby World Cup, there will be no play-offs for the 2016/17 Champions Cup with the 20th place in the tournament going to the winners of the 2016 Challenge Cup if not already qualified. However, for the 2017/18 Champions Cup, the play-off format will revert to four teams with a second GUINNESS PRO12 side competing.
For this season’s play-offs, the three teams will be the seventh-ranked clubs in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14, and the highest-placed Guinness PRO12 team which has not already qualified for the Champions Cup.
If an Aviva Premiership club wins the 2015 Challenge Cup and is not already qualified for next season’s Champions Cup, that club will take the place in the play-offs of the seventh-ranked club in the Aviva Premiership. The same principle will apply for future seasons to the Top 14 and to the GUINNESS PRO12 with the second of the PRO12 spots going to the winner of the Challenge Cup if applicable.
As only one GUINNESS PRO12 side will feature in this season’s play-offs, the principle will not apply.
EPCR WEEKENDS – 2015/16 SEASON:
Round 1: November 12/13/14/15
Round 2: November 19/20/21/22
Round 3: December 10/11/12/13
Round 4: December 17/18/19/20
Round 5: January 14/15/16/17, 2016
Round 6: January 21/22/23/24, 2016
Quarter-finals: April 7/8/9/10, 2016
Semi-finals: April 22/23/24, 2016
Finals: May 13/14, 2016
CHAMPIONS CUP PLAY-OFFS:
Saturday, May 23
Match 1: Aviva Premiership (seventh-ranked club or Challenge Cup winners from the Aviva Premiership if not already qualified) v GUINNESS PRO12 (highest-ranked team not already qualified)
Home advantage to be decided by toss of coin
Saturday, May 30
Match 2: Winners of Match 1 v Top 14 (seventh-ranked club from the Top 14 if not already qualified)
Winner of match 1 will have home advantage