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Future of European rugby
New European Cup to feature 'promotion'
ESPN Staff
April 28, 2014
The new European structure could see minnows take on the likes of Clermont and Toulon © Getty Images
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Next season's new European cup structure will feature promotion between three integrated competitions, raising the prospect of clubs from developing rugby nations gaining entry to the elite tournament.

Teams entering the second tier Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to win promotion to the elite European Rugby Champions Cup, while those entering the third tier Qualifying Competition could see themselves promoted to the Challenge Cup for the following season, according to the Rugby Paper.

This season a one-off play-off between the seventh teams in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 will decide the final place in the elite 20-team Champions Cup. However, from 2015-6 onwards, a play-off system to decide the final spot will feature four teams from the Premiership, Top 14 and RaboDirect PRO12.

This will see the seventh English and French clubs up against eighth and ninth in the PRO12, with two semi-final winners playing-off in a final to win entry to the Champions Cup.

Crucially, the Challenge Cup winner from the previous season will always be allocated one play-off berth if they have not already qualified through their league position, replacing either the English or French clubs, or the ninth-placed finishers in the PRO12.

The third tier Qualifying Competition is set to feature teams from developing rugby nations, such as Georgia, Russia and Portugal. Held in September, it will be split into two pools, with the winners of each gaining entry to the Challenge Cup later in the season.

Should a club from a developing nation defy the odds and win the Challenge Cup, they will be granted entry into the play-off system for the Champions Cup. It is likely they will replace the ninth PRO12 club, although this is yet to be ratified.

A Premiership spokesperson said: "The aim is to bring these competitions back to merit as the basis for qualification."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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