Cardiff Blues will compete in a new look European Challenge Cup after European Professional Club Rugby restructured their competitions due to the impact of Covid-19.
With 24 teams now making up the Champions Cup, John Mulvihill’s men will be one of four Guinness PRO14 clubs in the streamlined Challenge Cup. PRO14 teams were selected by their conference position, rather than points tally, meaning the Blues join Benetton Rugby, Zebre and the Ospreys in the second-tier competition.
The 2020/21 Challenge Cup will start with 14 clubs – six from the TOP 14, four from the Premiership and four from the PRO14 – in a single pool.
The tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the preliminary stage and again, clubs from the same league will not play against one another.
With no requirement for a pool draw on this occasion, the 2020/21 Challenge Cup fixtures will be available to clubs and fans shortly following the conclusion of the current season.
The tournament knockout stage will consist of a round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals with the final in Marseille on 21 May 2021. The leading eight clubs, as well as eight representatives from the Heineken Champions Cup, will qualify for the round of 16.
QUALIFIED CLUBS FOR 2020/21 CHALLENGE CUP
PRO14: Benetton Rugby, Cardiff Blues, Zebre Rugby Club, Ospreys
TOP 14: Bayonne, Castres Olympique, Brive, Pau, Agen, Stade Français Paris
Premiership: Newcastle Falcons (A further 3 clubs TBC at conclusion of current season)
*NB If not already ranked number one, the winners of the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup will become the second-ranked club from its league. If not already qualified for the Heineken Champions Cup, the winners of the 2020 Challenge Cup will take the place of the eighth-ranked club from its league.
Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of 11/12/13 December