The 2019-2020 edition of the Champions Cup has barely ended when it's already started.
On October 18, with six months late due to a calendar disrupted by the Covid-19, it ended with the first coronation of the English of Exeter and a new defeat in the final - the third - of Racing 92. Who goes back to the conquest of the Grail.
"Count on us not to give up," the president of the Ile-de-France club, Jacky Lorenzetti, told Le Figaro.
I have a fierce will, anger to win.
We owe each other a rematch.
Towards ourselves, our partners, our supporters.
“For this, it will be necessary to achieve a near-faultless, the new formula of the flagship competition does not really allow for mistakes.
"READ ALSO -
"READ ALSO -
Toulouse: the Champions Cup" requires a change of gear ", warns Ugo Mola
A new format ... ephemeral
The health crisis, by depriving the championships of their verdict in the spring, forced the organizer of the Champions Cup to innovate.
To avoid appeals and injustices, the EPCR has thus decided to increase, exceptionally, from 20 to 24 participants in order to qualify eight representatives from each of the three competitions: Top 14, English Premiership and Pro 14 (which brings together the Irish provinces, Welsh and Scottish).
No jealousy, therefore… No more participants, but, given the insane international calendar, no more dates.
It was therefore necessary to find a new format.
Instead of the five hens of four, places two large hens of twelve.
With eight qualified for the quarter-finals, which, another novelty, will be played in round-trip matches.
Before the classic semi-finals and the final, on May 22, at the Stade-Vélodrome in Marseille.
Who should have hosted that of 2020 before the pandemic imposed the closed door.
A convoluted formula
How, with two pools of twelve, ultimately get fewer dates (this Champions Cup will be played over eight days instead of the usual nine)?
This is where it gets seriously complicated.
Each team will only face… two of the other teams in its group, designated after a draw which excluded duels between clubs in the same championship, in a two-way match.
Or four meetings.
At the end of this short first phase, the first four of each pool compete in the quarter-finals (the 1st of pool A against the 4th of pool B, and so on).
In round-trip matches, therefore.
But beware, all will not be finished for the other teams: the clubs classified from 5 to 8 will be transferred to the round of 16 of the… Challenge Cup (the “small” European Cup)!
This formula has a sporting advantage.
The sprint of the first phase makes all matches important.
To qualify, "I'm afraid it's three minimum wins with a few additional bonuses," said Ugo Mola, Stade Toulousain coach.
With 15 points, you are qualified.
No doubt that a fourth place will be played at 12 or 13 points.
A defeat, and you are no longer in control of your destiny.
To master everything, it is better to do four out of four… ”But the Toulouse player, despite a draw that did not spare his team (Exeter and Ulster), does not complain.
On the contrary.
“I am one of those who campaigned for the change of formula, to avoid these non-matches as soon as a team was eliminated.
We could have teams that gave up a little too early.
This double round-trip confrontation brings us back to almost direct finals matches.
I already consider them as such.
It is an ideal formula.
Eight out of eight games to win to be sure of winning the cup in Marseille.
❤️ @StadeToulousain, four times European Champions, seems in great shape when it comes to @UlsterRugby
Will the Rouge et Noir get the same result as last season in the quarter-finals?
- Champions Cup France (@ChampionsCup_FR) December 10, 2020
Who are the favorites?
Winners of three of the last five editions, the London Saracens are not on the starting line, sanctioned for cheating with the salary cap.
The defending champion, Exeter (another English club…), is obviously present.
Since his two titles (Europe and national), the English champion has started off on a high basis: three bonus victories in as many days of Premiership.
The confrontation with Stade Toulousain, revenge of the semi-final last September, promises to be hot (first leg on December 20).
One of the shocks at the top of a pool B which has several with the other contenders for the final victory which are Racing, Clermont, Bristol, Munster and Ulster.
That is to say seven candidates for four places… The field of pool A seems less raised.
Behind Leinster, big favorite, Toulon, Bordeaux and La Rochelle have their cards to play.
It seems more compromised for Montpellier, who will face the Irish province (four times sacred) and the Wasps.
Champions Cup: Bordeaux-Bègles ready for the European "sprint"