Challenge Cup | Rules
The following are the key rules for the 2021/22 EPCR Challenge Cup tournament:
1. LAWS OF THE GAME
The tournament will be played in accordance with World Rugby’s Laws of the Game of Rugby Union (as amended from time to time), as varied or supplemented by EPCR.
2. TOURNAMENT FORMAT
2.1 Fifteen clubs – six from the TOP 14, five from the Gallagher Premiership and four from the United Rugby Championship – were divided into three tiers based on meritocracy from last season’s leagues, or on other qualification criteria as follows:
TIER 1 (6 clubs)
TOP 14 clubs ranked 9th and 10th
Premiership clubs ranked 9th and 10th
URC clubs ranked 9th and 10th
TIER 2 (6 clubs)
TOP 14 clubs ranked 11th and 12th
Premiership clubs ranked 11th and 12th
URC clubs ranked 11th and 12th
TIER 3 (3 clubs)
TOP 14 clubs ranked 13th and 14th
Premiership club ranked 13th
2.2 The clubs were then allocated into three pools of five – Pool A, Pool B and Pool C.
2.3 The pool stage will consist of five rounds with each club playing four matches home or away against opponents in its own pool. One club in each pool will have a bye in every round.
2.4 Four match points for a win, two match points for a draw. A bonus point will be awarded to a club scoring four or more tries and to a club losing by seven points or fewer.
If two or more clubs are equal on match points, their ranking will be determined as follows:
(i) the best aggregate points difference from the pool stage; or
(ii) if equal, the number of tries scored in the pool stage; or
(iii) if equal, the club with the fewest number of players suspended for disciplinary incidents in the pool stage; or
(iv) if equal, by drawing lots.
Knockout Stage – Round of 16
2.5 The three highest-ranked clubs in Pool A, the three highest-ranked clubs in Pool B, the three highest-ranked clubs in Pool C, and the highest-ranked fourth-placed club, as well as the three clubs ranked 9 to 11 from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, will qualify for the Round of 16.
2.6 The ranking of the clubs which qualify for the Round of 16 will be as follows:
(i) the three Challenge Cup pool winners will be ranked 1st to 3rd
(ii) the three Challenge Cup pool runners-up will be ranked 4th to 6th
(iii) the three Challenge Cup third-placed clubs will be ranked 7th to 9th
(iv) the leading fourth-placed Challenge Cup club will be ranked 10th
(v) the six Heineken Champions Cup qualifiers will be ranked 11th to 16th
2.7 The Round of 16 matches, in which the highest-ranked Challenge Cup qualifiers have home advantage, will be as follows:
Match 1: CC ranked 1 v CC ranked 10
Match 2: CC ranked 2 v CC ranked 9
Match 3: CC ranked 3 v HCC ranked 6
Match 4: CC ranked 4 v HCC ranked 5
Match 5: CC ranked 8 v HCC ranked 1
Match 6: CC ranked 7 v HCC ranked 2
Match 7: CC ranked 6 v HCC ranked 3
Match 8: CC ranked 5 v HCC ranked 4
2.8 Clubs with the higher rankings from the pool stage will have home venue advantage in the quarter-final matches as follows:
QF 1: winner Match 1 v winner Match 8
QF 2: winner Match 3 v winner Match 6
QF 3: winner Match 2 v winner Match 7
QF 4: winner Match 4 v winner Match 5
2.9 Clubs with the higher rankings from the pool stage will have home venue advantage in the semi-final matches as follows:
SF 1: winner QF 1 v winner QF 2
SF 2: winner QF 3 v winner QF 4
2.10 The 2022 EPCR Challenge Cup final will be played in Marseille on 27 May (21.00).
NB In the event of a drawn match at the end of normal time during the knockout stage, extra time of 10 minutes each way will be played. If the scores remain tied at the end of extra time, the winner will be determined as follows:
(a) the club that scored the most tries in the match (including extra time) or
(b) if equal, by a place kick competition.
3. ELIGIBILITY OF PLAYERS
3.1 Each club must nominate a squad, however, there is no limit on the number of players nominated at First Registration of the season. A minimum of 10 of the players nominated by the club must be capable of playing in front row forward positions. The extended deadline for First Registration is 8 December 2021 and all players must be fully and properly registered with their club and Union.
3.2 A club must nominate a squad of between 19 and 23 players for each match.
3.3 A minimum of six front row players must be included in each match day squad such that on the first occasion that a replacement is required in each position, a replacement can be made. Where uncontested scrums are ordered due to the departure of a front row player and there is no suitable replacement, the player whose departure caused the uncontested scrums may not be replaced (i.e. the club will be required to play with 14 players).
3.4 Each club may register up to five Additional Players during the pool stage but none during the knockout stage, each to replace a player previously registered. A minimum of three Additional Players must be front row players, and two Additional Players can be from any position. Players must have a three-month contract with the club and must not have played for another club in the same tournament. Additional Player registrations must be submitted by 12 noon (GMT) on the Wednesday before the match. De-registered players may be re-registered (in place of the relevant Additional Players) during the pool stage.
3.5 For Second Registration, clubs can add up to three players to supplement their squads and one of the players must be a front row player. Second Registration is scheduled for March 2022.
4. CLUB COLOURS
4.1 For pool stage matches, Round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals, if a club fails to wear the strip designated by EPCR and there is a colour clash, that club must change strip. For the final, in the event of a colour clash, the club to change strip will be at EPCR’s discretion.
5. ANTI-DOPING PROGRAMME
5.1 Players will be subject to doping control as set out in EPCR’s Anti-Doping Programme, which is based on and subject to Regulation 21 (Anti-Doping) of World Rugby’s regulations.
6.1 Where a match is abandoned after 60 minutes or more, the result will stand.
6.2 Where a match is abandoned after fewer than 60 minutes, (a) if both clubs and the EPCR Board agree, the result will stand, or (b) the match will be replayed in full no earlier than 48 hours after kick-off of the abandoned match (unless both clubs and EPCR agree otherwise), with both clubs entitled to select new match day squads.
7. MEDIA REGULATION – Match Day Squad announcements
7.1 Each club must announce its match day squad by midday (GMT) on the Thursday before a Friday match and by midday (GMT) on the Friday before a weekend match. The match day squad announced must not differ from the squad that plays save in exceptional circumstances. Breaches of match day squad regulations may result in fines being imposed by the Board of EPCR.