EPCR Chairman Dominic McKay underlined the excitement surrounding the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup at the season launch.

As five South African clubs join EPCR competitions for the first time in a historic expansion, the two tournaments, which kick off on December 9, are set to be more enthralling than ever.

And with 60,000 tickets already sold for the two finals in Dublin in May next year, fans will be watching intently to see which side make an early statement in their respective bids to reach the showpiece weekend.

After South African teams made an impression in their maiden United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign last season, McKay emphasised that the inclusion of those clubs in EPCR competitions was a logical – and exciting – progression.

“It was a natural decision for us to make, particularly with the success with the URC and the South African clubs,” he explained.

“I remember when it was launched and a lot of people were scratching their heads, understanding how it would work in terms of travel and logistics and time zones.

“I think we’ve seen with the URC it’s been a success, so it was natural for those teams then to filter into the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup.

“The quality of the teams is fitting to be involved with what we regard as being the best club competition in the world. They’ll elevate the competition even further and add real value to it.

“We’re super-excited about it and you’ll hear the excitement from the players. It’s a new adventure for them. It’s a new experience for the players to be travelling to South Africa and for South African teams to travel to France or England.”

This week’s season launch saw players from all 24 Heineken Champions Cup teams brought together, talking up their teams’ hopes and expectations as the competition edges ever closer.

“To see the joy on so many players faces as you wander round the hotel demonstrates once again the power of this wonderful competition,” McKay said.

“Whether it’s the Heineken Champions Cup or EPCR Challenge Cup, it’s the pinnacle of club rugby from a cup perspective.

“We’re excited about the season getting underway, and because of the quality of the teams and the quality of the rivalries, every season you just don’t know who is going to win it. That makes it super-exciting from a drama point of view.

“We’re looking forward to the season ahead and our ambition is to make sure we do a great job of executing, delivering outstanding tournaments.”