With a grand total of 28 European titles between this season’s competing clubs and with a galaxy of world-class players from more than 20 nations set to light up pitches from Limerick to La Rochelle, the Champions Cup is the one to win for the continent’s top teams.
The enduring prestigious nature of Europe’s blue riband competition was one of the themes emerging from today’s 2017/18 season launch for Guinness PRO14 clubs staged at the Convention Centre Dublin where Munster Rugby’s Peter O’Mahony and Rory Best of Ulster Rugby, who both had the honour of captaining the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand last summer, were among the star turns.
All seven PRO14 clubs participating in the Champions Cup – Scarlets, Munster Rugby, Leinster Rugby, Ospreys, Ulster Rugby, Glasgow Warriors and Benetton Rugby – attended the event with leading players joined either by their Directors of Rugby or Head Coaches. Connacht Rugby represented the PRO14 clubs competing in the Challenge Cup.
EPCR Chairman, Simon Halliday, said: “Clubs from what is now the Guinness PRO14 contributed so much to the success of the Champions Cup last season, which was a diverse and colourful celebration of European club rugby. More than one million fans passed through the turnstiles to enjoy the compelling action live, with telling contributions from clubs across the three professional domestic leagues. There is plenty to look forward to from clubs from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales this season on the way to our finals in Bilbao next May.”
EPCR Director General, Vincent Gaillard, said: “The format changes we have made to both of our major competitions, including meritocracy for clubs qualifying from the Guinness PRO14, are really exciting developments for the European club game. It was great to see the high quality of rugby from the clubs last season and expect more of the same outstanding rugby experiences on the road to our landmark Finals weekend in Bilbao, for which ticket sales have started very strongly.”
Fans of European club rugby have given the groundbreaking decision to take the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals weekend to the 53,000-capacity San Mamés stadium in Bilbao their seal of approval as more than 37,000 tickets for the matches have been sold to date with the Champions Cup already accounting for 26,000 of the total.
The revised qualification format for next season’s Champions Cup was also confirmed with the tournament winner guaranteed a place if not already qualified through its league position. In the event that the Champions Cup winner has qualified, then the Challenge Cup victors will take the 20th place.
Seven clubs from the PRO14 will qualify for the Champions Cup based on meritocracy. The three highest-ranked clubs from each conference, and the fourth-ranked club with the most match points from both conferences will all be assured of spots in the 2018/19 competition.
Click HERE for qualification rules