The 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup’s format and qualifiers have been announced following the conclusion of the domestic seasons in England and France.
Europe’s elite club rugby tournament is set to return with a highly competitive schedule of 71 matches for the upcoming season.
The 2021/22 Champions Cup season will begin in December when Stade Toulousain begin the defence of their title.
The competition will once again be competed for by 24 clubs across Europe’s top three leagues – the Pro14 (now United Rugby Championship), the Premiership and the Top 14.
Each league will be represented by eight teams who have qualified based on their position in the 20/21 league tables.
The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B – using a draw and the tournament will be played over nine weekends with four of those rounds of matches in the pool stages.
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the tournament’s knockout stage, consisting of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final.
The final will be held at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on May 28th, 2022.
The draw for the pools will be carried out the same way as last season’s draw with the 24 clubs separated into four tiers based on their 20/21 league position.
Clubs from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.
The number one and two ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number three and four ranked clubs will make up Tier 2, the number five and six ranked clubs will be in Tier 3, and the number seven and eight ranked clubs will occupy Tier 4.
The Tier 1 and Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn into the same pool but are not from the same league will play one another on a home and away basis during the pool stage.
The same process will occur for Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs that are drawn into the same pool but are not from the same league.
The pool draw will be live-streamed on HeinekenChampionsCup.com and the date of the event and further details will be communicated shortly.
As previously announced, EPCR is finalising a new shareholder agreement and discussions to finalise the Challenge Cup format and future Champions Cup and Challenge Cup seasons.
These future plans include the South African URC sides.
2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup qualifiers
Premiership: 1. Harlequins, 2. Exeter Chiefs, 3. Bristol Bears, 4. Sale Sharks, 5. Northampton Saints, 6. Leicester Tigers, 7. Bath Rugby, 8. Wasps
Pro14: 1. Leinster Rugby, 2. Munster Rugby, 3. Ulster Rugby, 4. Connacht Rugby, 5. Scarlets, 6. Ospreys, 7. Cardiff Blues, 8. Glasgow Warriors
Top 14: 1. Stade Toulousain, 2. Stade Rochelais, 3. Racing 92, 4. Union Bordeaux-Begles, 5. ASM Clermont Auvergne, 6. Stade Francais Paris, 7. Castres Olympique, 8. Montpellier Herault Rugby
2021/22 Key Dates
Round One – 10/11/12 December
Round Two – 17/18/19 December
Round Three – 14/15/16 January 2022
Round Four – 21/22/23 January 2022
Round of 16 (1st leg) – 8/9/10 April 2022
Round of 16 (2nd leg) – 15/16/17 April 2022
Quarter-finals – 6/7/8 May 2022
Semi-finals – 13/14/15 May 2022
Challenge Cup Final – Friday 27 May 2022; Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Champions Cup Final – Saturday 28 May 2022; Stade Velodrome, Marseille