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Next season's Champions Cup starts a fortnight after the World Cup final

EPCR has also announced its plans for the play-off system over the next three seasons.

Johnny Sexton will be a Leinster player again for next season's Champions Cup.
Johnny Sexton will be a Leinster player again for next season's Champions Cup.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

EUROPEAN PROFESSIONAL CLUB Rugby [EPCR] has announced that next season’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will get underway in mid-November, less than a fortnight after the World Cup final.

The first two rounds of pool games will take place on 12/13/14/15 November and 19/20/21/22 November, before the competition reverts to its customary pool-game weekends in December 2015 and January 2016.

The quarter-finals and semi-finals of both competitions will be held in April again, with the finals scheduled for the weekend of 13/14 May, 2016.

The World Cup decider will be played at Twickenham on 31 October, 2015, and it will be interesting to learn whether players involved in the latter stages of that tournament are fresh enough to launch into a European club campaign just two short weeks later.

EPCR has also underlined again that 19 clubs will qualify for next season’s Champions Cup based on finishing positions in the Guinness Pro12, Top 14 and Aviva Premiership, with the 20th club being decided by play-offs in May, 2015.

The highest-ranked Pro12 club not already qualified will face an Aviva Premiership side in the first step of those play-offs, with the home venue to be decided by the flip of a coin.

The winner of that one-off fixture will then have home advantage in a clash against a Top 14 outfit a week later, the victor of that tie advancing into the 2015/16 Champions Cup.

EPCR state that “[f]or 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 club which has not already qualified for the Champions Cup.”

However, should a Premiership club win this season’s Challenge Cup and is not qualified for next season’s Champions Cup through their final league position, they will take the place in the play-offs of the seventh-ranked club in the Premiership.

Connacht players A sixth-placed finish this season in the Pro12 would see Connacht avoid having to play off for a Champions Cup spot. Source: Ashley Crowden/INPHO

As if that was not straight-forward enough, EPCR has also revealed that there will be no play-offs for the 2016/17 Champions Cup, the 20th spot instead going directly to the winner of the 2016 Challenge Cup.

Ahead of the the 2017/18 Champions Cup the play-offs will return, but this time with four clubs involved, a second Pro12 club competing.

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EPCR says that the same Challenge Cup-winning principle that applies to English clubs this season will also apply for future seasons to the Top 14 and the Pro12 sides, with the second of the PRO12 spots going to the winner of the Challenge Cup if applicable.

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Champions Cup play-offs for 2015/16

Saturday, 23 May, 2015

Match 1: Aviva Premiership (seventh-ranked club or Challenge Cup winner from the Aviva Premiership if not already qualified) v Guinness PRO12 (highest-ranked club not already qualified)

Home advantage to be decided by toss of coin

Saturday, 30 May

Match 2: winner 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

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Champions/Challenge Cup dates for 2015/16

EPCR weekends – 2015/16 season

Round 1: 12/13/14/15 November
Round 2: 19/20/21/22 November
Round 3: 10/11/12/13 December
Round 4: 17/18/19/20 December
Round 5: 14/15/16/17 January 2016
Round 6: 21/22/23/24 January 2016
Quarter-finals: 7/8/9/10 April 2016
Semi-finals: 22/23/24 April 2016
Finals: 13/14 May 2016

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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