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. NEW TOURNAMENT FORMAT

PRELIMINARY STAGE

2.1 Fourteen clubs – six from the TOP 14, four from the Gallagher Premiership and four from the Guinness PRO14 – will compete in a preliminary stage of four rounds of matches.

2.2 During this stage, each club will play two matches at home and two away.
NB Two preliminary stage rounds were completed due to the impact of COVID-19 and the temporary suspension of the tournament

2.3 In order to create the fixtures, the clubs are divided into two tiers based on their qualifying positions in their respective league tables, or on other qualification criteria, as follows:

TIER 1 (7 clubs)
TOP 14 clubs ranked 9th, 10th and 11th          
Premiership clubs ranked 9th and 10th  
PRO14 clubs ranked 9th and 10th

TIER 2 (7 clubs)
TOP 14 clubs ranked 12th, 13th and 14th
Premiership clubs ranked 11th and 12th
PRO14 clubs ranked 11th and 12th

2.4 The higher-ranked clubs in Tier 1 will only play against clubs in Tier 2.

2.5 Clubs in the same tier will not play against one another and clubs from the same league will not play against one another.

2.6 One Premiership club and one PRO14 club will play against TOP 14 opposition only.

2.7 Four points for a win, two 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.

2.8 The eight highest-ranked clubs from the preliminary stage will qualify for the Round of 16 and if two or more clubs are equal on match points, the ranking will be decided as follows:
(i) the best aggregate points difference, or
(ii) if equal, the number of tries scored, or
(iii) if equal, the club with the fewest number of players suspended for disciplinary incidents, or
(iv) if equal, by drawing lots.

2.9 The eight clubs which did not qualify for the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup will also compete in the Round of 16.

KNOCKOUT STAGE DRAWS – Round of 16

2.10 Under a revised format, draws will take place to decide the matches in the Round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Clubs from the same league cannot be drawn against one another in the Round of 16, however, clubs from the Challenge Cup and clubs from the Heineken Champions Cup can be drawn against one another

Clubs which have won both Challenge Cup preliminary stage matches on the pitch – i.e. where results were not impacted by COVID-19 – will play at home in the Round of 16.

Quarter-finals

2.11 The draw for the four quarter-final matches is ‘open’ and clubs in the same league can be drawn against one another.

Semi-finals

2.12 The semi-final matches will also be decided by a draw.

Final

2.13 The 2021 final will be played at a venue designated by EPCR.

NB In the event of a tie at full-time in the Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals or final, extra time of 10 minutes each way will be played. If the scores remain tied, 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 First Registration deadline is midday (GMT) on Thursday 19 November 2020 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 preliminary 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, one Additional Player can be from any position and one Additional Player must be a medical replacement. 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 preliminary stage.

3.5 For Second Registration, clubs can add an unlimited number of players to supplement their squads. The deadline for Second Registration is midday (GMT) on 25 March 2021.

3.6 Each club is permitted an unlimited number of ‘non-European players’ in each match day squad for the 2020/21 season.

4. CLUB COLOURS

4.1 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. DISCIPLINE

6.1 Where reasonably practicable, a player shown a red card will have his case heard within seven days of the relevant match.

6.2 EPCR will appoint a Citing Commissioner for each match. The Citing Commissioner will be entitled to cite a player for any acts of Foul Play that warranted the player being shown a red card. Clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 26 hours of the start of the match. The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to submit a citing complaint to EPCR, although this deadline may be extended in certain circumstances. EPCR may refer the complaint to a Citing Officer (also referred to as a ‘Gatekeeper’) to determine whether it should proceed. The case will then proceed to a disciplinary hearing.

7. ABANDONMENT

7.1 Where a match is abandoned after 60 minutes or more, the result will stand.

7.2 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 teams.

8. TOURNAMENT MEDIA REGULATION – TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS

8.1 Each club must announce its match squad by 12 noon (GMT) on the Thursday before a Friday match and by 12 noon (GMT) on the Friday before a weekend match. The match squad announced must not differ from the squad that plays save in exceptional circumstances. Breaches of the match squad regulations may result in fines being imposed by the Board of EPCR.