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'It’s not true' - Spain and Portugal address Challenge Cup rumours

Teams arrive on pitch during the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Black Lion and ASM Clermont Auvergne at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

Rumours have been floating of a possible inclusion of a Spanish and/or Portuguese team in the upcoming new season of the EPCR Challenge Cup, after the Georgian Black Lion had debuted in 2023.

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The Portuguese Rugby Union have officially denied receiving any invitation to take part of the EPCR Challenge Cup, while the Spanish have confirmed of ongoing talks for a future inclusion.

For now, only the Black Lion will proceed to play in the 2024/2025 season, but Spain is eyeing their prospects, especially for the year that the Champions and Challenge Cup are heading for Bilbao, in 2026.

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After a very positive first experience for the Georgian setup – they defeated the URC side Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets – they are poised to join the competition for a second season, and in the future, they might not be the only Rugby Europe team joining the EPCR competitions.

Carlos Amado da Silva, President of the Federação Portuguesa de Rugby, answered RugbyPass’ queries about a potential integration in the Challenge Cup,

“We have not been invited to play in the EPCR Challenge Cup. It’s not true that we have received any type of invitation. We are deeply focused on creating a solid project in the Lusitanos franchise, and the only competition we are playing this season will be the Rugby Europe Super Cup.”

The Lusitanos have finished in 2nd place in the debut season of the Rugby Europe Super Cup in 2022, and will likely undergo some changes with the integration of Simon Mannix as the new head coach of the Lobos.

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Gabriel Sáez, Vice-President of the Real Federación Española de Rugby (RFER), has also clarified their stance for the future,

“Well, we had conversations with EPCR about the future, wide, interesting and promising. Spain is a country of 47 million inhabitants, visited by 100 million more each year, packed with some of the best sports stadiums and infrastructure. We are always ready to host new events and tournaments, and we are deeply passionate about rugby. We are a sleeping giant so to be part of an EPCR competition in the future is a goal, and something they themselves desire.

“The talks we had were very intense and interesting, and it went beyond what some might think. We want to help expand the EPCR brand, incorporate in the future a Spanish male’s team, and we are also going to do a study to see if it is possible to also have a Women’s side when the EPCR launches their new competition. There’s also talks of doing more events, in line with the Bilbao final.

“The next steps the RFER will proceed to make is to keep growing and giving body to our strategy plan, by having an increase ticket sale, professionalization of the RFER structure, enhance of our high-performance program, to keep up with what is demanded by unions like ours.”

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In an interview given to the French radio station Sud Radio Rugby, Jacques Raynaud, EPCR General Director, had mentioned the interest to have another Rugby Europe Super Cup team to join the Challenge Cup, but downplayed the imminence of such a project because of a lack of fully professional setups beyond Black Lion.

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See the HSBC SVNS champions crowned in Madrid, 31 May-2 June. Tickets from €10 available to purchase HERE.

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