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Champions Cup

2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup format and qualifiers confirmed

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the conclusion of the domestic seasons in England and France, EPCR is pleased to confirm the format and qualifiers for the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup as Europe’s elite club tournament is set to return with a highly competitive schedule of 71 matches.

The Heineken Champions Cup will once again be competed for by 24 clubs with eight representatives from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP 14 having secured their places. (See qualifiers and rankings below)

The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B – by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over nine weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December when Stade Toulousain begin the defence of their title.

The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022. (See key dates below)

The draw for the pools will be carried out on the same lines as last season with the clubs separated into four tiers, and clubs from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.

The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs will be in Tier 2, the number 5 and 6 ranked clubs will be in Tier 3, and the number 7 and number 8 ranked clubs will be Tier 4.

The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage, as will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.

The pool draw will be live streamed on HeinekenChampionsCup.com and the date of the event as well as further details will be communicated shortly.

As previously announced, EPCR is currently putting the finishing touches to a new shareholder agreement, and discussions to finalise the Challenge Cup format for the 2021/22 season, as well as the formats for the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for future seasons, are ongoing.

These discussions include the future participation of South African clubs in EPCR’s tournaments as referenced recently by the United Rugby Championship and no further comment will be made until the appropriate time.

2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup qualifiers
Gallagher Premiership: 1 Harlequins, 2 Exeter Chiefs, 3 Bristol Bears, 4 Sale Sharks, 5 Northampton Saints, 6 Leicester Tigers, 7 Bath Rugby, 8 Wasps

Guinness PRO14: 1 Leinster Rugby, 2 Munster Rugby, 3 Ulster Rugby, 4 Connacht Rugby, 5 Scarlets, 6 Ospreys, 7 Cardiff Rugby, 8 Glasgow Warriors

TOP 14: 1 Stade Toulousain, 2 Stade Rochelais, 3 Racing 92, 4 Union Bordeaux-Bègles, 5 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 6 Stade Français Paris, 7 Castres Olympique, 8 Montpellier Hérault Rugby

2021/22 key dates
Round 1 – 10/11/12 December
Round 2 – 17/18/19 December
Round 3 – 14/15/16 January 2022
Round 4 – 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 Vélodrome, Marseille
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 28 May 2022; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille

Champions Cup

Leinster name team to face Montpellier

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Leinster Rugby squad, proudly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, has been named by Leo Cullen ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the RDS Arena (KO 1pm – live on BT Sport and Newstalk).

The side will be captained by James Ryan and it will be the first time that the team has played since the fixture against Bath in Aviva Stadium on 11 December.

Hugo Keenan will wear the number 15 jersey, with Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien on the wings. O’Brien made his European debut against Montpellier last season.

In the centre, Ciarán Frawley and Garry Ringrose are selected, while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the half-backs selected by Cullen.

In the pack, Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong start in the front row with Ross Molony and James Ryan an all-St. Michael’s College second row.

Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete Cullen’s starting XV.

On the bench, Rhys Ruddock is in line to win his 50th Champions Cup cap for Leinster Rugby should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby team v Montpellier (caps in brackets):

15. Hugo Keenan (36)
14. Jordan Larmour (67)
13. Garry Ringrose (92)
12. Ciarán Frawley (42)
11. Jimmy O’Brien (38)
10. Ross Byrne (111)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (106)

1. Andrew Porter (82)
2. Rónan Kelleher (30)
3. Tadhg Furlong (118)
4. Ross Molony (123)
5. James Ryan (53) CAPTAIN
6. Caelan Doris (45)
7. Josh van der Flier (104)
8. Jack Conan (107)

Replacements:

16. Dan Sheehan (19)
17. Cian Healy (238)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (7)
19. Rhys Ruddock (196)
20. Max Deegan (71)
21. Luke McGrath (158)
22. Johnny Sexton (176)
23. James Lowe (57)

Referee – Wayne Barnes (RFU)

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Champions Cup

Ulster team named for away clash against Northampton Saints

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland international, Robert Baloucoune, will make a welcome return from injury to join Ulster’s match-day squad travelling to cinch Stadium on Sunday to face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3.15pm kick-off).

The winger has been named on the right wing with Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy taking up the full-back and left wing starting positions. Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns has been selected at out-half with Nathan Doak, who is set to make his first European start, joining him at scrum-half.

Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore will pack down either side of Rob Herring in the front row. Alan O’Connor will once again captain the side, and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell. Marcus Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney named at openside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are named as forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing back line cover.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Heineken Champions Cup Round 3, Sunday 16 January at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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Champions Cup

Scarlets forfeit Champions Cup opener v Bristol

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Picture Credit: Getty Images

Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited our round one Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, due to be played on Saturday, December 11.

Following discussions between Scarlets management, coaches, players and medical and conditioning staff, the overwhelming feeling was that it would be a physical risk to select any of the 32 front-line squad members who are currently in quarantine in a hotel outside of Belfast.

Since returning from South Africa, the travelling party have been in a strict 10-day quarantine, confined to their rooms with limited outdoor time a day without having been able to train as a group. That isolation period is due to end on Friday, December 10 – just a day before the Bristol fixture.

At present, we have 14 fit Scarlets players training at Parc y Scarlets – seven senior players and seven development players. 

We would like to thank the Ospreys and Dragons for their offer of assistance, but, unfortunately, we have been unable to put together a match-day squad that can safely take the field against the Bears.

“It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly,” said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack.

“This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to.

“Ultimately, though, the welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine. You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all. Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.

“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.

“With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.

“We are all disappointed. I know a lot of fans had booked accommodation in Bristol and have been looking forward to this game for some time. But I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own. 

“I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

“We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January.”

For those supporters who have purchased tickets and official coach travel for the game, further details will be published shortly.

Source – Scarlets Rugby

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