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The European Champions Cup Draw And How It Works

The European Champions Cup Draw And How It Works

When starting this article, we're reminded of Gift Grub's Keith Duffy character and his trademark explainers. "The rules of the new European Champions Cup format are easy..." You just need an abacus, a degree in maths and a masters in logical philosophy.

Seriously though, they may sound a little confusing at first but they're not complicated.

This season the Champions Cup features 24 teams and will have a different format, due to the impact of Covid-19. With the draw for the pool stages now completed, we know that Leinster will face Northampton Saints and Montpellier, Munster have been drawn against Harlequins and Clermont, Ulster are up against Toulouse and Gloucester, and Connacht face Pat Lam's Bristol Bears and Racing 92.

But here's where it gets slightly tricky: there are only actually two pools. Allow us to explain...

How does the European Champions Cup draw work?

Complicated answer

The clubs were divided into two pools of 12 by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over eight weekends.

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For the purposes of the pool draw, the clubs were separated into tiers, and clubs from the same league in the same tier could not be drawn into the same pool.

The number one and number two ranked clubs from each league (Pro 14, Top 14 and Premiership) were in Tier 1, the number three and number four ranked clubs were in Tier 2, the number five and six ranked clubs were in Tier 3, and the number seven and number eight ranked clubs were in Tier 4.

The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, play one another home and away during the pool stage, as will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.

The four highest-ranked clubs in each pool will qualify for the quarter-finals, and the clubs ranked numbers five to eight in each pool will compete in the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup.

Leinster were drawn into Pool A and - as a tier 1 side - will play Montpellier and Northampton Saints (tier 4), as they can't face the other tier 4 team, the Dragons. In Pool B, Ulster are a tier 1 side and given that tier 4 Glasgow Warriors are in the Pro 14, they must face the other tier 4 teams of Toulouse and Gloucester. Tier 2 side, Munster, player tier 3 teams, Clermont and Harlequins, while Connacht face the other tier 2 sides of Racing 92 and the Bristol Bears.

The Champions Cup quarter-finals will be played over two legs, followed by single-leg semi-finals and a final in Marseille on 22 May 2021.

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The simple answer

The 24 teams are drawn into two groups. In each group of 12, a team plays two other teams. Who plays who was determined by two factors: tiered ranking and the rule that teams from the same league cannot play each other.

Leinster were drawn into Pool A, while Ulster, Munster and Connacht are in Pool B.

As 1st seeds (Tier 1), Leinster play Montpellier and Northampton Saints (4th seeds); Ulster play Toulouse and Gloucester, Munster play Clermont and Harlequins, and Connacht play Racing 92 and the Bristol Bears. They will play these teams twice, home and away.

Although teams only play two of the other teams in their pool, the results form the overall pool table. After the four matches, the top four teams in each pool will progress to the quarter-finals, while the next four go into the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

The Champions Cup quarter-finals will be played over two legs, followed by single-leg semi-finals and a final in Marseille on 22 May 2021.

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The full European Champions Cup draw

POOL A (with opponents in brackets)
Bordeaux-Bègles (Dragons, Northampton Saints)
Leinster Rugby (Montpellier, Northampton Saints)
Wasps (Dragons, Montpellier)
Bath Rugby (La Rochelle, Scarlets)
Edinburgh Rugby (La Rochelle, Sale Sharks)
RC Toulon (Sale Sharks, Scarlets)
La Rochelle (Bath Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby)
Sale Sharks (Edinburgh Rugby, RC Toulon)
Scarlets (Bath Rugby, RC Toulon)
Dragons (Bordeaux-Bègles, Wasps)
Montpellier (Leinster Rugby, Wasps)
Northampton Saints (Bordeaux-Bègles, Leinster Rugby)

POOL B (with opponents in brackets)
Exeter Chiefs (Glasgow Warriors, Toulouse)
Lyon (Glasgow Warriors, Gloucester Rugby)
Ulster Rugby (Gloucester Rugby, Toulouse)
Bristol Bears (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Connacht Rugby)
Munster Rugby (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins)
Racing 92 (Connacht Rugby, Harlequins)
ASM Clermont Auvergne (Bristol Bears, Munster Rugby)
Connacht Rugby (Bristol Bears, Racing 92)
Harlequins (Munster Rugby, Racing 92)
Glasgow Warriors (Exeter Chiefs, Lyon)
Gloucester Rugby (Lyon, Ulster)
Toulouse (Exeter Chiefs, Ulster Rugby)

The 2020/2021 European Champions Cup Schedule

  • Round 1 – 11/12/13 December 2020
  • Round 2 – 18/19/20 December 2020
  • Round 3 – 15/16/17 January 2021
  • Round 4 – 22/23/24 January 2021
  • Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 1st leg – 2/3/4 April 2021
  • Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 2nd leg – 9/10/11 April 2021
  • Semi-finals – 30 April – 1/2 May 2021
  • Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 22 May

So there's all you need to know. Any questions? Give us a shout on social media.

See Also: 13 Opposition Quotes Which Prove The Greatness Of Paul O'Connell

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