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European Rugby Champions Cup: Dates, format & how to watch

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 Leinster 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.

European Rugby Champions Cup Dates

The European Rugby Champions Cup annually takes place throughout the winter and into the spring.

The 2023/24 tournament begins on Friday 8th December 2023, with Glasgow Warriors taking on Northampton and Connacht hosting Bordeaux Begles, both at 20:00. 

The Pool stage will played over four weekends, the last of which is the weekend of Friday 19th January 2024.

The Round of 16 will then be held over the three days from Friday 5th April, with the quarter-finals the following weekend. 

The semi-finals will be played from Friday 3rd May before the final on Saturday 25th May 2024.

European Rugby Champions Cup 2023/24 venues

The 2023/24 European Rugby Champions Cup up to the conclusion of the quarter-final stage will be held across various venues in England, France, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.

Semi-finals will be held at neutral grounds, which will be decided based on which teams make it through to the last four, while the final will be held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

European Rugby Champions Cup Format

After three years of two 12-team sections, a change of format has been introduced with 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. 

The top four sides in Pools A-D will go through to the Round of 16, while the side that finishes fifth will drop into the same stage of the Challenge Cup.

From the Round of 16, the tournament will progress through a familiar knockout formula of quarter-finals, semi-finals and then the final.

European Rugby Champions Cup How to watch

UK viewers can watch the European Champions Cup by signing up and subscribing to the competition’s official website via

Selected games will also be available to watch across TNT Sports, ITV and S4C.

European Rugby Champions Cup History

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.

European Rugby Champions Cup Most Wins

ClubWonYears won
Toulouse51995/96, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2009/10 and 2020/21
Leinster42008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2017/18
Saracens32015/16, 2016/17 and 2018/19
Toulon32012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15
Leicester22000/01 and 2001/02
La Rochelle22021/22 and 2022/23
Munster22005/06 and 2007/08
Wasps22003/04 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), Northampton (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.

European Rugby Champions Cup Defending Champions

La Rochelle will be looking to defend the title they won for the second straight season in 2022/23. 

After losing the 2020/21 final to Toulouse, they beat Leinster in 2021/22 and defeated the same opponents to defend their title.

European Rugby Champions Cup - Odds and Favourite

After their near misses over the last two seasons, Leinster are the 5/2 favourites to be crowned European champions for a joint-record fifth time. 

That record number of victories is currently held by 4/1 Toulouse, while La Rochelle are 10/3 to emulate 18/1 Toulon in being the only clubs to lift the trophy three years in a row. 

Three-time champions Saracens are available at 10/1, with 2006 and 2008 heroes Munster 11/1 and 2020/21 beaten finalists Racing Metro 16/1

The Stormers are 18/1 to become the first South African winners of the competition, with the Bulls 33/1.

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