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EPCR statement: Reprieve for Bristol after London Irish suspension

By Liam Heagney
Bristol's Ellis Genge (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Pat Lam’s Bristol have been handed a Heineken Champions Cup reprieve as the Bears have been awarded the place in the 2023/24 tournament left vacant following the RFU suspension of London Irish.

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The Exiles were suspended on Tuesday from all competitions next season due to their inability to guarantee funding and owner Mick Crossan placed the club in administration the next day.

Led by director of rugby Declan Kidney, Irish had finished in fifth place last month when the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership concluded, qualifying them for what would have been a second successive season in EPCR’s premier cup competition.

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However, with the RFU pulling the plug on their participation, their place has now gone to ninth-place Bristol. They lost out on Champions Cup qualification on the final day of the regular season on points difference to Bath, who recorded a massive win against an understrength Saracens XV.

A statement read: “Following the RFU’s decision to suspend London Irish from all competitions, EPCR can clarify that regrettably, the club will not compete in the 2023/24 Champions Cup.

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“As Bristol Bears are the highest-ranked club in the Gallagher Premiership league table at the conclusion of the regular season which did not qualify for the 2023/24 Champions Cup, they will now replace London Irish in next season’s tournament.

“The formats for the 2023/24 Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup will be announced shortly, as will details of the pool draws for both tournaments.”

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