Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup changes format

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Kurtley Beale
French side Racing 92, last year's beaten finalists, are one of five teams assured of home advantage in the last-16 draw

The Champions and Challenge Cups will resume in April with a knockout round of 16, after the final two rounds of pool matches in January were cancelled.

European organisers have confirmed the top eight teams in Pool A and top eight teams in Pool B have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions Cup.

Any team who won two pool games on the pitch will get a home fixture.

The last-16 draw will take place on 9 March with the matches being played on the first weekend of April.

Knock-out stages come early to Europe

Concerns from the French government regarding cross-border travel led to the suspension of pool matches in January, with Premiership Rugby confirming last month those matches would not be rearranged.

The initial plan had been for the quarter-finals to be played over two legs, but this has now been scrapped in favour of a round of 16 followed by one-legged quarter-finals the weekend after.

Clubs who won their two matches - without either being affected by Covid-19 - will be at home in the round of 16. Therefore Racing 92, Leinster, Wasps, Bordeaux and Munster will all have home advantage.

The other clubs to qualify for the knockout stages are Lyon, Toulouse, La Rochelle, Scarlets, Clermont Auvergne, Bristol, Exeter, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Toulon and Sale.

Clubs from the same league cannot be drawn against each other in the round of 16, but clubs from the same pool can be drawn against each other.

In the Challenge Cup, the round of 16 will comprise the eight highest-ranked clubs at the time of the suspension of the tournament along with the eight clubs which have not qualified for the last 16 of the Champions Cup.

London Irish, Ospreys and Leicester will each be guaranteed a home fixture.

Cardiff Blues, Zebre, Agen, Benetton, Newcastle Falcons, Ulster, Connacht, Northampton Saints, Bath, Montpellier, Dragons, Harlequins and Glasgow will make up the rest of the Challenge Cup round of 16.

The semi-finals of both competitions are scheduled for the weekend of 30 April, with the finals in Marseille on Friday, 21 May and Saturday, 22 May.

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