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Black Lion and Cheetahs back for more in EPCR Challenge Cup

By Jon Newcombe
LLANELLI, WALES - DECEMBER 15: A detailed view of a EPCR Challenge Cup match ball prior to the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Scarlets and Black Lion at Parc y Scarlets on December 15, 2023 in Llanelli, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

EPCR have announced that Black Lion from Georgia and South Africa’s Toyota Cheetahs will continue their participation as invited clubs in the Challenge Cup for the next two seasons.

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The Tbilisi-based Black Lion and the Toyota Cheetahs, who will play their home matches in Amsterdam, have fulfilled EPCR’s participation criteria of having a home venue in Europe, as well as the ability to select competitive matchday squads and to adhere to the required minimum standards for staging a fixture.

Both clubs have already made significant contributions to the EPCR Challenge Cup on the pitch with the Toyota Cheetahs reaching the knockout stage of tournament in both 2022/23 and 2023/24.

Last season, Black Lion made history by becoming the first Georgian club to participate in an EPCR tournament and their impact was immediate with a superb away victory against the Scarlets as well as attracting strong attendances to their home matches in Tbilisi, while the Toyota Cheetahs’ fixture against Section Paloise in Amsterdam generated a sell-out attendance at the NRCA Stadium.

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In addition, the recent appointment of the vastly-experienced Richard Cockerill to the dual role of Head Coach of Black Lion and the Georgian national team is certain to make the club an even more competitive proposition in the EPCR Challenge Cup in the future.

EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, said: “We are absolutely delighted to invite Black Lion to continue their EPCR Challenge Cup journey for the next two seasons.”

“The inclusion of Black Lion and the continuation of the Toyota Cheetahs’ participation reflect a commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent to fans worldwide. The Toyota Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”

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Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years. We’re grateful to EPCR for taking a lead and showing the vision that is needed to further the global development and growth of the game. My personal gratitude to Dominic McKay and his amazing team for their hard work?and?support.”

Toyota Cheetahs CEO, Ross van Reenen, said: “We are honoured that the Toyota Cheetahs have been invited to participate in the 2024/25 and 2025/26 seasons of this esteemed competition. We eagerly anticipate returning to Amsterdam as our home base, especially following the success of record attendance and sell-out at the NRCA Stadium. Being part of this prestigious international competition is significant for us, and I sincerely thank the EPCR and SA Rugby for this incredible opportunity.”

Meanwhile, EPCR confirmed they are looking into the possibility of a meritocratic promotion pathway into the Challenge Cup as well as establishing long-term invitations for competitive clubs with ambitious development plans.

The 18 clubs in the 2024/25 EPCR Challenge Cup will once again compete in three pools of six, and the pool draws for next season are scheduled for Tuesday July 2nd in Cardiff.

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Tom 1 hours ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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