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Rugby Europe Championship expands as part of major shake-up

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Federugby via Getty Images)

The Rugby Europe Championship is to expand the number of teams participating as part of an overhauled tournament format.

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The competition – previously referred to as the Six Nations B – is expanding from six teams to eight. It will also include a new pool system, with eight teams spreads across two pools.

Three new teams will enter, with Russia currently suspended due to political reasons.

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A statement reads: “Rugby Europe, the European governing body, in charge of the promotion, development and organization of the game of rugby in Europe, has announced the new format for their premier men’s competition, The Rugby Europe Championship (REC), taking effect from the 2023 edition.

“The REC has been expanded from 6 to 8 teams. On the back or Russia’s suspension, three new countries have been integrated into next year’s competition, which will now include Belgium, Germany, and Poland. The REC will also feature an exciting new format where everything will be at stake until the very last game of the competition each year:

“The 8 Nations will be split into two pools, using a serpentine system based on the results of the last 2 seasons.

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“20 games will be played throughout February and March 2023: Each team will still play five fixtures, regardless of their ranking.”

There will be four weekends of Round Robins in February, followed by play-off games in March.

“In addition, the pools will be locked with 2 years cycles. The team finishing last of the 2-year cumulative ranking will be relegated to the Trophy division.

“The team from Trophy having obtained most cumulated points over 2 editions of Trophy will be promoted to Rugby Europe Championship, subject to meeting participation criteria.”

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Rugby Europe Head of Competitions Philippe Tuccelli said: “This new format aims to increase the interest for our top XV-a-side competition on a sporting side by creating more of a spectacle in who wins the annual title with the integration of the new playoff system. This extension to 8 teams is also a key-point for the development of European rugby to the high-level as we continue to look to grow the game and create opportunities for our countries as much as we can across Europe.”

Rugby Europe CEO Florent Marty said: “The new Rugby Europe Championship is central to our commercial strategy. On the media side, the competition will now be operated with a fully centralized model, which will offer both a better TV product and an improved narrative for fans, sponsors, and broadcast partners. From a sponsorship aspect, these eight European markets represent the most attractive offer for brands who want to invest in European rugby. This, with our continuous increased digital content offering on social, will continue to grow the fan base for Rugby Europe competitions.”

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