2023–24 EPCR Challenge Cup

The 2023–24 EPCR Challenge Cup will be the 10th edition of the EPCR Challenge Cup, an annual second-tier rugby union competition for professional clubs. Including the predecessor competition, the original European Challenge Cup, this is the 28th edition of European club rugby's second-tier competition.

2023–24 EPCR Challenge Cup
Tournament details
Countries England
 France
 Georgia
 Ireland
 Italy
 Scotland
 South Africa
 Wales
Tournament format(s)Round-robin and knockout
Date8 December 2023 – 24 May 2024
Tournament statistics
Teams18 pool stage plus 4 knockout.
Matches played36
Attendance241,674 (6,713 per match)
Highest attendance17,233 – Black Lion v Clermont
20 January 2023
Lowest attendance1,600 – Zebre Parma v Cheetahs
9 December 2023
Tries scored205 (5.69 per match)
Final
VenueEngland Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
← 2022–23 (Previous)
(Next) 2024–25 →

The tournament will commence in December 2023, and will conclude with the final on 24 May 2024 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England.[1]

This will be the second year that teams from South Africa can qualify, following the second United Rugby Championship season. Two teams have been invited from outside the three main European professional leagues; The Black Lion from Tblisi, Georgia are current holders of the Rugby Europe Super Cup, the third-tier competition in European rugby administered by Rugby Europe, and Cheetahs the current holders of the Currie Cup, South Africa's second tier and most historic national competition. Originally not represented in the Challenge Cup, two teams Ulster and Connacht joined in the play-off rounds, having dropped down for the Champions Cup.

Teams edit

Sixteen teams qualified for the 2023–24 EPCR Challenge Cup from Premiership Rugby, the Top 14 and the United Rugby Championship as a direct result of their domestic league performance having not qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup. Plus two invited sides making 18 teams.[2]

The distribution of teams are:

Entry Point Premiership Top 14 United Rugby Championship Invited
 England  France   Ireland   Italy  Scotland   Wales   South Africa   Georgia
Pool stage
Knockout stage

Team details edit

Team Coach /
Director of Rugby
Captain Stadium Capacity Method of qualification
Entering at Pool stage
  Benetton   Marco Bortolami   Dewaldt Duvenage
  Michele Lamaro
Stadio Comunale di Monigo 5,000 URC bottom eight
  Black Lion   Levan Maisashvili   Merab Sharikadze Mikheil Meskhi Stadium 27,223 Invited [a]
  Castres   Jeremy Davidson   Mathieu Babillot Stade Pierre-Fabre 12,500 Top 14 bottom 6
  Cheetahs   Hawies Fourie   Victor Sekekete   Free State Stadium 46,000 Invited [b]
  NRCA Stadium 5,000
  Clermont   Christophe Urios   Arthur Iturria Stade Marcel-Michelin 19,022 Top 14 bottom 6
  Dragons   Dai Flanagan   Steffan Hughes Rodney Parade 8,700 URC bottom eight
  Edinburgh   Sean Everitt   Grant Gilchrist
  Jamie Ritchie
Edinburgh Rugby Stadium 7,800 URC bottom eight
  Gloucester   George Skivington   Lewis Ludlow Kingsholm 16,115 Premiership bottom 2
  Lions   Ivan van Rooyen   Reinhard Nothnagel Emirates Airline Park 62,567 URC bottom eight
  Montpellier   Richard Cockerill [c]
  Patrice Collazo [c]
  Paul Willemse GGL Stadium 15,697 Top 14 bottom 6
  Newcastle Falcons   Alex Codling[d]
  Micky Ward (interim)[d]
  Callum Chick Kingston Park 11,200 Premiership bottom 2
  Ospreys   Toby Booth   Justin Tipuric Swansea.com Stadium 22,200 URC bottom eight
  Oyonnax   Joe El Abd   Tommy Raynaud Stade Charles-Mathon 11,500 Pro D2 Champions
  Pau   Sébastien Piqueronies   Beka Gorgadze Stade du Hameau 18,324 Top 14 bottom 6
  Perpignan   Franck Azéma   Mathieu Acebes Stade Aimé Giral 14,593 Top 14 bottom 6
  Scarlets   Dwayne Peel   Josh Macleod Parc y Scarlets 14,870 URC bottom eight
  Sharks   John Plumtree   Lukhanyo Am Hollywoodbets Kings Park Stadium 54,000 URC bottom eight[e]
  Zebre Parma   Fabio Roselli   Dave Sisi Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi 5,000 URC bottom eight
Entering at Knockout Stage (transferred from Champions Cup)
  Bayonne   Grégory Patat   Denis Marchois Stade Jean-Dauger 14,370 Champions Cup Pool C 5th place
  Connacht   Peter Wilkins   Jack Carty Galway Sportsgrounds 8,129 Champions Cup Pool A 5th place
  Sale Sharks   Alex Sanderson   Ben Curry Salford Community Stadium 12,000 Champions Cup Pool D 5th place
  Ulster   Dan McFarland   Iain Henderson Ravenhill Stadium 18,196 Champions Cup Pool B 5th place

Pool stage edit

Teams were awarded four points for a win, two for a draw, one for scoring four tries in a game, and one for losing by less than eight points.

Pool 1 edit

EPCR Challenge Cup Pool 1
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Sharks (1) 4 3 0 1 141 53 +88 21 6 4 1 17
  Pau (6) 4 3 0 1 90 113 –23 10 15 0 0 12
  Cheetahs (13) 4 2 0 2 112 105 +7 14 13 2 1 11
  Zebre Parma (16) 4 2 0 2 83 92 –9 11 9 1 1 10
  Dragons 4 1 0 3 71 80 –9 7 12 1 2 7
  Oyonnax 4 1 0 3 56 110 –54 8 16 1 1 6
Green background indicates qualification places for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Blue background indicates top two third-placed teams who also qualify for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Yellow background indicated other teams qualified for the Challenge Cup round of 16.
Plain background (rows 5 to 6) indicates teams eliminated from 2023–24 European competition.
Starting table — source: EPCR


Pool 2 edit

EPCR Challenge Cup Pool 2
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Benetton Rugby (3) 4 3 0 1 147 87 +60 19 12 3 0 15
  Montpellier (5) 4 3 0 1 94 54 +40 15 7 2 0 14
  Ospreys (7) 4 3 0 1 111 103 +8 15 14 2 0 14
  Lions (14) 4 2 0 2 94 76 +18 10 8 2 0 10
  Newcastle Falcons 4 1 0 3 82 139 –57 8 20 0 1 5
  Perpignan 4 0 0 4 45 114 –69 4 10 0 0 0
Green background indicates qualification places for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Blue background indicates top two third-placed teams who also qualify for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Yellow background indicated other teams qualified for the Challenge Cup round of 16.
Plain background (rows 5 to 6) indicates teams eliminated from 2023–24 European competition.
Starting table — source: EPCR


Pool 3 edit

EPCR Challenge Cup Pool 3
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Gloucester (2) 4 4 0 0 99 52 +47 9 7 1 0 17
  Clermont (4) 4 3 0 1 122 66 +56 17 7 3 0 15
  Edinburgh (8) 4 2 0 2 103 92 +11 15 12 2 1 11
  Castres (15) 4 2 0 2 88 91 –3 13 10 2 0 10
  Black Lion 4 1 0 3 42 86 –44 3 10 0 1 5
  Scarlets 4 0 0 4 59 126 –67 7 18 0 0 0
Green background indicates qualification places for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Blue background indicates top two third-placed teams who also qualify for a home Challenge Cup round of 16.
Yellow background indicated other teams qualified for the Challenge Cup round of 16.
Plain background (rows 5 to 6) indicates teams eliminated from 2023–24 European competition.
Starting table — source: EPCR


Knockout stage edit

The knockout stage will be played with a single-leg round of 16 matches consisting of the top four teams from each pool and the teams ranked 5th in each pool of the 2023–24 European Rugby Champions Cup. The Round of 16 will follow a pre-determined format, while the quarter-finals and semi-finals will guarantee home advantage to the higher-ranked team.

Seeding edit

Rank Team Pts Diff TF
Pool leaders
1   Sharks 17 +88 21
2   Gloucester 17 +47 9
3   Benetton Rugby 15 +60 19
Pool runners-up
4   Clermont 15 +56 17
5   Montpellier 14 +40 15
6   Pau 12 –23 10
Top two third placed teams
7   Ospreys 14 +8 15
8   Edinburgh 11 +11 15
Champions Cup teams
9   Bayonne 8 –25 11
10   Sale Sharks 6 –7 13
11   Connacht 6 –52 13
12   Ulster 5 –59 12
Third best third placed team
13   Cheetahs 11 +7 14
Fourth placed teams
14   Lions 10 +18 10
15   Castres 10 –3 13
16   Zebre Parma 10 –9 11

Bracket edit

Round of 16 Quarter-finals Semi-finals Final
            
1   Sharks
16   Zebre Parma
 
 
8   Edinburgh
9   Bayonne
 
 
4   Clermont
13   Cheetahs
 
 
5   Montpellier
12   Ulster
 
 
2   Gloucester
15   Castres
 
 
7   Ospreys
10   Sale Sharks
 
 
3   Benetton
14   Lions
 
 
6   Pau
11   Connacht

Round of 16 edit

5 April 2024
20:00
Gloucester   (2)R16 2(15)   Castres
Kingsholm, Gloucester
6 April 2024
12:30
Clermont   (4)R16 4(13)   Cheetahs
Stade Marcel-Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
6 April 2024
17:30
Benetton   (3)R16 3(14)   Lions
Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso
6 April 2024
20:00
Ospreys   (7)R16 7(10   Sale Sharks
Brewery Field, Bridgend[7]
6 April 2024
20:00
Edinburgh   (8)R16 8(9)   Bayonne
Edinburgh Rugby Stadium, Edinburgh
7 April 2024
12:30
Montpellier   (5)R16 5(12)   Ulster
GGL Stadium, Montpellier
7 April 2024
15:00
Sharks   (1)R16 1(16)   Zebre Parma
Kings Park Stadium, Durban
7 April 2024
17:30
Pau   (6)R16 8(11)   Connacht
Stade du Hameau, Pau

Quarter-finals edit

12/13/14 April 2024
Winner R16 1QF 1Winner R16 8
High-ranked team home
12/13/14 April 2024
Winner R16 2QF 2Winner R16 7
High-ranked team home
12/13/14 April 2024
Winner R16 3QF 3Winner R16 6
High-ranked team home
12/13/14 April 2024
Winner R16 4QF 4Winner R16 5
High-ranked team home

Semi-finals edit

3/4/5 May 2024
Winner QF 1SF 1Winner QF 4
High-ranked team home
3/4/5 May 2024
Winner QF 2SF 2Winner QF 3
High-ranked team home

Final edit

24 May 2024
Winner SF 1vWinner SF 2
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Black Lion are champions of the third-tier Rugby Europe Super Cup competition for European nations outside the Six Nations.[4]
  2. ^ Cheetahs formerly competed in the Pro 12, the earlier incarnation of the United Rugby Championship.[4]
  3. ^ a b Richard Cockerill was sacked in November 2023 after a poor start to the season and replaced by Patrice Collazo.[5]
  4. ^ a b Alex Codling stepped down from his daily duties as Newcastle Falcons head coach at the start of February 2024. Forwards coach Micky Ward took over on an interim basis.[6]
  5. ^ Sharks finished eighth in the URC regular season phase, but were displaced in the Champions Cup by Cardiff Rugby as URC Welsh Shield winners

References edit

  1. ^ "Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to host 2024 Champions Cup final". Irish Times. 25 April 2023. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  2. ^ "EPCR pool draws for 2023/24 season". EPCR Challenge Cup. European Professional Club Rugby. 16 June 2023. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  3. ^ "Bristol Bears to replace London Irish in Champions Cup, EPCR confirm". BBC Sport. 9 June 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  4. ^ a b c "European Challenge Cup: Georgian side Black Lion invited into European competition". BBC Sport. 6 July 2023. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  5. ^ "Richard Cockerill is sacked by Montpellier after just seven games". Rugby Pass. 21 November 2023. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  6. ^ "Steve Diamond: Newcastle Falcons appoint ex-Sale and Worcester boss as consultant director of rugby". BBC Sport. 19 January 2024. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  7. ^ "European Challenge Cup: Ospreys to host Sale in Bridgend rather than Swansea". BBC Sport. 25 January 2024. Retrieved 25 January 2024.