Challenge Cup invitational teams announced

Edinburgh in same pool as guest side Black Lion but will not face Georgians, with Gloucester, Clermont, Castres and Scarlets providing opposition instead

Black Lion will become the first Georgian side to play in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments. Image: Craig Watson
Black Lion will become the first Georgian side to play in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments. Image: Craig Watson

EDINBURGH’S opposition in the pool stage of next season’s Challenge Cup will be Gloucester Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Castres Olympique and Scarlets.

The sixth team in pool three was announced this [Thursday] morning as Black Lion, who are making history by becoming the first Georgian side to play in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments, but they will not face Edinburgh.

The revised tournament structure for this season’s competition sees each Challenge Cup team face four of its five pool opponents – two home fixtures and two away matches. It is not clear at the moment why it is Black Lion rather than URC rivals Scarlets who have been kept apart from Edinburgh.

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The other invitational side in the tournament is Toyota Cheetahs from South Africa, who will face Oyonnax Rugby, Section Paloise, Cell C Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool One, with Amsterdam in the Netherlands as their agreed ‘home’ base when pitted against European opponents. Their pool stage match against the Cell C Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban depending on the outcome of the current fixture scheduling process.

Full details of the fixture schedules for the 2023-24 EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup will be announced as soon as practicable, with the tournaments set to kick off with the first round of pool stage matches on the weekend of 8th-10thDecember.


  • Round 1 – 8/9/10 December 2023
  • Round 2 – 15/16/17 December 2023
  • Round 3 – 12/13/14 January 2024
  • Round 4 – 19/20/21 January 2024

Today’s EPCR statement explained that: “The two clubs [Black Lion and Toyotah Cheetahs] were offered invitations to participate following a detailed and competitive tender process during which EPCR received interest from across Europe and beyond, including an impressive application from Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional club, who have been performing strongly in the Rugby Europe Super Cup. EPCR will continue to engage with Rugby Europe to discuss future plans.”

EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, said: “The inclusion of Black Lion and the return of the Toyota Cheetahs reflect a continuing commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent for fans worldwide.”

Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years.”

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About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. WHY change the original pool format??? Everyone plays everyone in the pool. Edinburgh now losing the chance to play a new overseas team from Georgia; that would fill the Wee Murrayfield and get fans in. It’s not an easy format to explain to new fans at all. Very disappointing

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