The regional pools that form part of the United Rugby Championship format will be known as ‘Shields’ and the winners of each will presented with a shield trophy at the end of the season.
The winner of each ‘Shield’ will earn an automatic place in the Heineken Champions Cup for the 2022/23 season, and the accomplishment of being the top team in their respective groups will be marked each year with an on-field presentation.
A tremendous value is placed on the rivalries within the Shield groups by fans, players, coaches and broadcasters and with a European place available to each winner, the value of overcoming your ‘Shield’ opponents now has more rewards than ever.
How the ‘Shields’ work
Four ‘Shield’ groups have been constructed for fixturing purposes to retain home-and-away derby games and will count for six of the 18 games played by each team.
The Shields will consist as follows:
- Irish Shield: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster
- South African Shield: Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers
- Welsh Shield: Cardiff Rugby, Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets
- Italian & Scottish Shield: Benetton, Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Zebre
The Shields will also crown regional champions with a trophy and a guaranteed place in the Heineken Champions Cup for the team ranked first.
Points in all 18 games will contribute to pool standings, so wins in derby games now have added importance like a ‘six-pointer’ in football terms.
Heineken Champions Cup Qualification
- Qualification for the Champions Cup will be split between placings in the league table and regional pools
- Each of the four regional pool winners will qualify automatically
- Those four pool winners will be removed from the final league table, and the four remaining highest ranked teams will also qualify
- Seedings for Champions Cup will be based upon the league ranking of all eight teams
- Subject to the finalisation of contract terms with EPCR, all teams (including the South Africans) will be eligible to qualify for EPCR competitions that are played from 2022/23