Watch elite European rugby teams battle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup. After all, although the European Rugby Challenge Cup is a second-tier competition for teams that don’t qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup, the standard of rugby union played by participating teams is incredibly high and classic matches unfold before our very eyes year after year.
20 teams contest the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Of these, 18 teams automatically qualify from Europe’s top three professional leagues: the English Premiership, the French Top 14 and the PRO14. The final two participants qualify through the European Rugby Continental Shield. However, for the 2020-21 season, only 14 teams will compete due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Usually, the format of the European Challenge Cup includes five pools containing four teams that are ranked based on their domestic league performance from the previous season. Teams then play each other team in their pool twice: once at home and once away. Following the completion of the pool stage, the five pool winners and the three best pool runners-up qualify for the knock-out stage of the European Challenge Cup.
During the knock-out stage, the remaining Challenge Cup rugby teams are ranked from 1 to 8 based on their performance in their respective pool. The four top-ranked teams have home advantage for the quarter-finals and play against the four lower-ranked teams in a 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5 format. The semi-finals are then determined by a draw and the final is played at a pre-determined venue in May.
In the history of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, both Clermont and Harlequins have won the Challenge Cup final on three occasions. In addition to this, Gloucester, Sale, Northampton and Cardiff are the only sides who have won the competition more than once. Overall, English rugby sides have won the European Rugby Challenge Cup 12 times and French teams have won the tournament on nine occasions. However, no Scottish team has ever won the Challenge Cup final.
Read on to discover even more about Challenge Cup rugby, including information on all the latest Challenge Cup results and upcoming Challenge Cup rugby fixtures.