The European Rugby Champions Cup is the biggest club rugby competition in Europe. Due to that, the competition structure often changes and so it is sometimes hard to keep up with how the competition works.
How does the European Rugby Cup Work? The 2023-24 European Champions Cup features four groups of 6 teams, 24 in total. Each team plays each other once, with the top four from each Pool going to the knockout stages. From there it is a standard single elimination knockout format. Featuring a Round of 16, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and the Final.
The format for the Champions Cup is constantly changing. The Covid-19 pandemic caused the format of the competition to change quite considerably. But with the pandemic not an issue anymore, the format has changed once again.
The 24 teams that have qualified for the tournament are split evenly into four different groups. The champions of the top three European leagues are drawn into three different groups, while the champions of the European Champions Cup from the previous season are put into the fourth group.
From there, the remaining 20 teams are drawn randomly into the rest of the groups. The only condition of the draw is that no more than two teams from the same domestic league could be placed into each pool. With more than two teams from the same domestic league, it becomes a slightly less European competition.
The Pool Stage is just a round robin format, with each team playing every other team in their Pool. The draw includes determining who plays at home in each game and which team plays away. Just like in the majority of rugby leagues, you get four points for a win, two points for a draw and zero points for a loss.
There is also the opportunity to get a try bonus point or a losing bonus point. At the end of the Pool stage, the four teams in each pool will advance to the quarterfinals. The fifth placed team in each Pool will qualify for the Challenge Cup quarterfinals.
With 16 teams remaining in the tournament after the pool stage, it becomes a pretty simple knockout competition. The higher seeded team will be at home throughout the tournament. The exception to that is the final, with the 2024 Champions Cup final being played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
In the past the competition has included some two-legged ties, but this is not the case for the 2023-24 competition.
How does the European Rugby Challenge Cup work?
The European Rugby Challenge Cup is the second-tier competition of domestic European Rugby. The format of the competition is similar to the Champions Cup, but there are some key differences between the two competitions.
The competition features 18 teams who are split into a pool stage. At the end of the pool stage, the top four teams from each pool go into the knockout stages of the competition, along with four teams from the Champions Cup.
From that point on, it is simply a knockout competition with a winner crowned at the end of it. At the start of the tournament, the 18 teams who qualify for the European Challenge Cup are split into three Pools. It will be a single round robin format, with each team playing every other team in their pool.
It is four points for a win, two for a draw and no points for a loss in the league format. At the end of the pool, the four teams at the top with the most points will advance to the knockout stages. They will be joined by the four teams who finish fifth in their Pools in the European Champions Cup.
From that point on, the remaining 16 teams in the competition will contest a normal knockout tournament. The higher seeded team will be the home team at each knockout game. The final will be played at a neutral venue, which for the 2023-24 season is going to be the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
It seems likely that the format of the competition will stay the same for a few years. With all of the changes that have been made to the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cup, they will likely keep a similar format for a few years going forward.
How do Champions Cup pools work?
The Champions Cup pools have been messed about with and changed quite a lot for the last few years. So let’s take a look at exactly how the pool stage of the tournament works.
The pools in the Champions Cup are a single round robin format. It means that each team in a pool will play every other team in their pool. However, it is not a normal round robin format where there is a home and an away game. There is just one single game between the teams.
The draw will determine who is at home and who is away for each matchup. The points in the pool stage work exactly the same as they do in any other rugby league or pool format. You get four points for a win, two points for a draw and zero points for a loss.
There is also an opportunity to get a try bonus point, if you score four points in a single game. There is also a losing bonus point, which is given to any team which loses by seven or fewer points in a game.
How many teams qualify in the European Challenge Cup?
The European Challenge Cup is the second tier of European domestic rugby. The competition is not as big as the Champions Cup.
18 teams qualify for the pool stages of the European Challenge Cup. There are also another four teams that join the tournament at the knockout stages. 16 of the teams that qualify for the pool stage will qualify through the three main domestic leagues which are Premiership Rugby, Top 14 and the United Rugby Championship. The other two teams in the competition are invited by the Challenge Cup. The four teams that join the competition at the knockout stages are the teams that finish fifth in their European Champions Cup group.