Top 14 Rugby History
The Top 14 was created way back in 1892 and it’s the top division of the French national league system. The league is home to France’s 14 best teams and sits just above the Pro D2. Promotion and relegation occur between the two tiers.
With a history that spans more than a century, the Top 14 has undergone numerous format changes over the years. For example, only two teams took part in the inaugural year of competition, while the league was replaced by the Coupe de l'Espérance during World War I. Additionally, for many years, 16 teams competed for the title and the competition was known as the Top 16 (1995-2005).
More on Top 14 Rugby Format
Every Top 14 team plays all of the others twice (once at home and once away) in a round-robin format. Following this, a knockout format is used to decide the winner of the tournament.
The club that finishes bottom of the Top 14 is automatically relegated to Pro D2 and is replaced by the Pro D2 champion. The second-from-bottom team then enters a promotion/relegation play-off with the Pro D2 runner-up and the winner of this game takes a place in the Top 14 for the next season.
Teams that finish in the top eight places of the Top 14 represent France in the European Rugby Champions Cup. The remaining Top 14 teams automatically qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup. This means all of the Top 14 teams represent France in European competitions.