Heineken Cup
ERC announces Heineken Cup changes
June 16, 2009
The Heineken Cup, Heineken Cup Final, Munster v Toulouse, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, May 24, 2008
ERC have anounced changes to the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup © Getty Images

European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) chiefs have announced a series of changes for next season's Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup tournaments, with both competitions receiving an overhaul in terms of qualification.

From next season the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup, the second-tier European competition, will feature three sides that have been eliminated from the Heineken Cup as runners up in their groups - in a similar fashion to football's Europa League. The third, fourth and fifth ranked Heineken Cup Pool runners-up will continue their European season, facing away ties in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Home advantage will reside with the four top ranked Challenge Cup pool winners, with the top seeds playing the worst qualifying pool winner and the other three sides welcoming the Heineken Cup teams.

In another change, the winners of the Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup will secure an extra Heineken Cup berth for their country. The winners of the tournaments will secure passage in to the following season's Heineken Cup by right, and also each earn an Extra place - over and above their guaranteed allocations.

However, England and France, who have six automatic places, will only be allowed a maximum of seven teams, so if either country wins both the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup the second additional spot will pass on to the club with the highest ERC European Ranking who has not already qualified from any of the other five nations.

In the final change, ERC have also changed the ranking system for the Challenge Cup, with the winners now securing six ranking points instead of the previous five.

New European Challenge Cup quarter-finals system:

1 ECC 1 (Top ranked ECC Pool winner)
2 ECC 2 (Second ranked ECC Pool winner)
3 ECC 3 (Third ranked ECC Pool winner)
4 ECC 4 (Fourth ranked ECC Pool winner)
5 Heineken Cup 1
6 Heineken Cup 2
7 Heineken Cup 3
8 ECC 5 (Fifth Ranked ECC Pool winner)

Quarter-final Pairings
1 (ECC 1) v 8 (ECC 5)
2 (ECC 2) v 7 (Heineken Cup 3)
3 (ECC 3) v 6 (Heineken Cup 2)
4 (ECC 4) v 5 (Heineken Cup 1)

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