Champions Cup qualification for United Rugby Championship (URC) teams will return to meritocracy, URC boss Martin Anayi has confirmed, but the ‘Destination Final’ won’t.
Qualification for the 2024/25 Champions Cup season will be decided by the top-ranked sides rather than the current qualification that rewards the geographical pool winners.
Cardiff won the Welsh Shield this season to secure Champions Cup rugby for 2023/24 despite finishing 10th on the overall table.
Top eight teams to qualify
“It’s highly likely we will revert back to a straight meritocracy,” said Anayi.
“The way it works now is we take the four geographical shield winners and next four highest placed sides in the league, and we did that because we wanted a broad range of teams in the Champions Cup.
“There was quite a vocal objective to that within some of our stakeholder groups who didn’t want that. They said they would go with that for a two-year period, and then we would review this summer.
“Unless it is unanimous to continue as we are, we will revert back to a straight meritocracy.”
If this system was in place this season, the Sharks would have taken a Champions Cup spot instead of Cardiff.
Anayi covered a wide range of topics in the media conference and one of which was that the competition organisers are keen to stick with the current final venue format.
Previously, the competition would select a host stadium for the final of the PRO12/PRO14, but the inclusion of the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers from South Africa led to a change from the ‘Destination Final’.
The URC chief says that change will remain in place, with the top-ranked side out of the finalists benefitting as hosts of the showpiece event.
“We moved away from the ‘Destination Final’ when the South African teams came in, largely because obviously you could have two South African teams in a European’ Destination Final’ and that might be tricky. Which in year one, we obviously had with Stormers versus Bulls. So we’ve moved away to a highest-ranked team route,” he explained.
“That’s why this weekend is really interesting, because if Leinster win they’ve got a final in the Aviva Stadium. If Munster and Stormers win, then they’re down in Cape Town.
“That’s why we’ve gone that route, and that is tricky for us, but actually, this year, there is an extra gap of a week between the Champions Cup final in Dublin. So we’ll have a bit more time to put it on logistically than we did last year. For us, I think the home final route is the way to go and what we should stick to.”