URC make huge change to Champions Cup qualification
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The BKT United Rugby Championship will introduce full meritocracy for EPCR qualification starting from this season (2023/24).
In a change from the previous qualification method employed by the BKT URC for the previous two campaigns, all eight top-ranked teams from the league table will qualify for the Investec Champions Cup with the remaining sides taking their place in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The winners of the regional Shields will no longer be awarded a place into the Investec Champions Cup and the primary way to qualify from the BKT URC is to finish in the top eight after the 18-round regular season.
Should a BKT URC team win the Champions or Challenge Cups without finishing among the top-ranked teams in the league table, they will receive a place in the Investec Champions Cup. In such an event, the team that finishes eighth in BKT URC will be placed into the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The previous qualification method was designated for review in the summer of 2023. At this point, the league’s Sports & Regulatory Committee recommended the return to meritocracy.
As a consequence, the Shield winners will now be determined by the games played amongst the teams within their regional group.
Martin Anayi, CEO, United Rugby Championship, said:
“The first two seasons of BKT URC set records for audiences and attendances thanks to the appeal and jeopardy of the league. Returning to straight meritocracy as a qualification method for the Investec Champions Cup will further turn up the dial on the competitiveness of our league.
“The debate between representation and meritocracy in our league has always been a complex discussion among our stakeholders. However, when it comes to creating the most competitive arena for our teams, meritocracy is a proven method for achieving this.
“In 2017 we brought in full meritocracy over representation in the PRO12 and this lifted the level of competition throughout the league. When launching BKT URC against the backdrop of the pandemic it was prudent to choose the representative qualification route and now after the review our stakeholders have opted to return to meritocracy.”