The European Rugby Champions Cup has long been the pinnacle of northern hemisphere club rugby, with the best teams from the continent and beyond battling it out for supremacy.
A total of 24 teams from the English Premiership, French Top 14 and the United Rugby Championship embark on a long journey each season for the right to call themselves European champions.
La Rochelle were crowned champions for a second consecutive season in May after a pulsating final against in Dublin and will be seeking to complete a Champions Cup hat-trick when the 2023/24 edition kicks off in December.
But plenty of clubs will be gunning for the French powerhouse and changes to the format could add some extra spice to the early rounds of a competition that hasn't tended to get going until the knockout stage in recent seasons.
|What||European Rugby Champions Cup 2023/24|
|Where||Various, final to be played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London|
|When||Friday, 8th December, 2023 - Saturday, 25th May, 2024|
|How to watch||TNT Sports & ITV|
The European Rugby Champions Cup annually takes place throughout the winter and into the spring.
The 2023/24 Champions Cup starts on Friday, 8th December, kicking off the first of four weekends of pool-stage action.
After three years of two 12-team sections, a change of format is expected with a move to four pools of six teams; two from the Premiership, two from the Top 14 and two from the URC.
Each team will play four pool matches, two home and away against the clubs from outside their domestic competition.
Those alterations haven't been ratified, but the governing body, the European Professional Club Rugby, have confirmed the last-16 stage will remain, starting on Friday, 5th April.
The quarter-finals will be played the following week with the semi-finals on the weekend of 4th-5th May before the final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, 25th May.
Games will be played in France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and South Africa, the latter having joined the competition last season.
were scheduled to be part of the English contingent for the Champions Cup but have since been suspended by the Premiership after going into administration, leaving them unable to play in any league next season.
A contingency plan for the Exiles' absence has yet to be revealed.
Every game of the European Rugby Champions Cup 2023/24 will be shown on TNT Sports, formerly BT Sport.
Select games will be shown live on ITV, including the final.
The 2023/24 European Rugby Champions Cup marks the 29th edition of the tournament with the first competition being staged in the 1995/96 campaign.
Just 12 teams qualified for the inaugural event, which was won by Toulouse.
The first match was played between Farul Constanta and Toulouse on 31st October 1995, with both Emile Ntamack and David Berty scoring two tries each in a 54-10 win for the French club.
|Toulouse||5||1995/96, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2009/10 and 2020/21|
|Leinster||4||2008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2017/18|
|Saracens||3||2015/16, 2016/17 and 2018/19|
|Toulon||3||2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15|
|Leicester||2||2000/01 and 2001/02|
|La Rochelle||2||2021/22 and 2022/23|
|Munster||2||2005/06 and 2007/08|
|Wasps||2||2003/04 and 2006/0|
A total of 13 teams have won the European Rugby Champions Cup since its inauguration in 1995.
French giants Toulouse have won the European Rugby Champions Cup more times than any other club. Les Rouge et Noir have won the title five times (1995/96, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2009/10 and 2020/21), while they have finished runners-up twice (2003/04 and 2007/08).
Irish side Leinster have won it four times (2008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2017/18) and have also lost three finals, including the last two.
Saracens (2015/16, 2016/17 and 2018/19) and Toulon (2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15) have each taken the title three times, with La Rochelle able to join them on three if they claim a third successive Champions Cup this season (2021/22 and 2022/23).
The French outfit are only the fifth team to have won consecutive titles in the competition's history, beating Leinster 27-26 in May to join Leicester (2000/01 and 2001/02), Munster (2005/06 and 2007/08) and Wasps (2003/04 and 2006/07) in having won the competition twice.
Brive (1996/97), Bath (1997/98), Ulster (1998/99), (1999/00) and Exeter (2019/20) have each won it once.
Overall French and English clubs have each won the tournament 11 times, while the Irish provinces have taken seven crowns.
There have been a number of unlucky losers, with both Clermont and Racing Metro losing the final on three occasions.
Despite losing the last two finals and going two seasons without silverware, Leinster are likely to be at the top of the market for the 2023/24 Champions Cup.
Current South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber is joining the Leinster set-up, replacing the Racing 92-bound Stuart Lancaster, to work alongside Leo Cullen and a host of Ireland internationals.
Leinster won't have the retiring Johnny Sexton to call upon this season but the majority of a squad that powered its way to the last two finals remains.
La Rochelle have denied Leinster a record-equalling fifth Champions Cup each of the last two years and will be serious contenders once again, leading a strong challenge from the French contingent.
At least one French side has reached each of the last four finals and the likes of Toulouse, who boast a half-back pairing of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, three-time winners Toulon and Racing 92 will expect to go deep in the competition.
Saracens, fresh from claiming their first Premiership title in four years, are likely to carry the hopes of English rugby, although both they and Leicester were well beaten at the quarter-final stage last season.
URC champions Munster and South African powerhouse the Stormers are also two who could go far if they get the rub of the green when the pool stage draw is made.