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Pro14 introduces play-off game to decide which team earns final Champions Cup place

The one-legged fixture will form part of the expanded final series.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE SEVENTH AND final Champions Cup qualification berth for Guinness Pro14 teams will be determined by a new play-off fixture which will form part of the league’s final series.

In a move described by Pro14 organisers as ‘an exciting change’, the two fourth-placed teams from each conference will face off in a winner-takes-all clash with qualification for the following season’s Champions Cup pool stages on the line.

The one-legged play-off tie will take place on the first weekend of May and home advantage will be awarded to the team which finishes the regular season with the most points.

The top three teams in each of the Pro14 conferences automatically secure a berth in the Champions Cup, with the introduction of a play-off system designed to ensure competitive balance between the two divisions.

It means the now expanded season-ending final series will see six teams qualify for three quarter-final ties while two more sides will battle it out for that coveted space in the top-tier of European club rugby.

“We are committed to raising the standards of our Championship and the introduction of the Champions Cup Play-Off brings a dynamic element to European qualification,” Martin Anayi, CEO of Pro14 Rugby, said.

“After careful consultation with our clubs we strongly believe that this is best solution for the Guinness Pro14. The new Championship format is off to a fantastic start and it’s so important to us that no matter which Conference a club is in, eligible teams have an equal opportunity to qualify for the Champions Cup.

“By pitting the two fourth-placed teams against each other we’re creating a fair fight and giving fans a Cup final style occasion that they can relish.”

The South African teams — the Cheetahs and Southern Kings — remain ineligible to qualify for EPCR tournaments, so should they finish in either the top three or in fourth place they will be replaced by the team that finished below them in that conference.

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