The Heineken Champions Cup is back at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday, December 11, so to get you in the mood for the return of Europe’s premier club competition, here’s our handy guide to the format, how it all works, and who Your Sharks will be facing.
The 2022/23 Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 clubs with eight from the United Rugby Championship (URC) – including first appearances by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks – as well as eight from the Gallagher Premiership and eight from the TOP 14.
The 24 clubs were separated into four tiers based on their rankings, and then drawn into two pools – Pool A and Pool B – with clubs from the same league in the same tier not drawn into the same pool.
Still with us!?
Good. The Tier 1 and the Tier 4 clubs in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, play one another home and away during the pool stage, as do the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league.
The tournament will be played over eight weekends with the four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting next week (Saturday, December 10) when La Rochelle begin the defence of their title.
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the showpiece final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 20, 2023.
2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup Qualifiers:
TOP 14: Castres Olympique, Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Stade Toulousain, 5 Stade Rochelais, 6 Racing 92, 7 ASM Clermont Auvergne, 8 Lyon
Gallagher Premiership: Leicester Tigers, Saracens, 3 Harlequins, 4 Northampton Saints, 5 Gloucester Rugby, 6 Sale Sharks, 7 Exeter Chiefs, 8 London Irish
United Rugby Championship: Stormers, Bulls, 3 Leinster Rugby, 4 Ulster Rugby, 5 Sharks, 6 Munster Rugby, 7 Edinburgh Rugby, 8 Ospreys
Sharks pool fixtures
2022/23 key dates:
Round 1 – 9/10/11 December 2022
Round 2 – 16/17/18 December 2022
Round 3 – 13/14/15 January 2023
Round 4 – 20/21/22 January 2023
Round of 16 – 31 March/ 1/2 April 2023
Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April 2023
Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April 2023
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 20 May 2023; Aviva Stadium, Dublin