Saints three wins away from a Marseille showpiece

Saints may not be able to make it to Marseille in the Champions Cup this season - but they can in the Challenge Cup.

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 1:58 pm
Stade Velodrome in Marseille will host the European finals this season
Stade Velodrome in Marseille will host the European finals this season

That is because Chris Boyd's men have dropped into the competition and will be in the last-16 draw, which takes place on Tuesday, March 9.

On Wednesday afternoon, EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) announced revised tournament formats for the 2020/21 season.

Following discussions with shareholder leagues and unions, both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will resume with a round of 16 on the weekend of April 2/3/4.

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The knock-out stages will then continue with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the scheduled Marseille finals on EPCR's previously allocated weekends in April and May.

The eight highest-ranked clubs from Pools A and B of the Heineken Champions Cup have qualified for the round of 16, while the eight clubs who did not qualify instead move into the Challenge Cup knock-out stages.

With Saints currently sitting in ninth place in Pool A, having lost to Leinster and Bordeaux-Begles, they will join Bath, Montpellier, Dragons, Ulster, Connacht, Harlequins and Glasgow Warriors in moving from the Champions Cup into the Challenge Cup round of 16.

The last-16 and quarter-final matches in both tournaments will now be decided in a live draw next month.

Clubs who won both of their Challenge Cup fixtures in the preliminary rounds are guaranteed to play their last-16 fixture at home, while Saints’ opposition and venue will be decided as part of the draw.

Boyd's side cannot face a Gallagher Premiership side in the last-16 but could face another English side should they progress to the quarter-finals – with the draw for those match-ups and home advantages taking place immediately after the rounds of 16 have been drawn.

The Challenge Cup draw will be streamed live on epcrugby.com.

2020/21 EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP KNOCKOUT STAGE QUALIFIERS

Challenge Cup – London Irish, Ospreys, Leicester Tigers, Cardiff Blues, Zebre Rugby Club, Agen, Benetton Rugby, Newcastle Falcons, Ulster Rugby, Connacht Rugby, Northampton Saints, Bath Rugby, Montpellier, Dragons, Harlequins, Glasgow Warriors

NB London Irish, Ospreys and Leicester Tigers are guaranteed home matches in the Round of 16

EPCR KEY DATES

Knockout Stage Draws: Tuesday, March 9

Rounds of 16: April 2/3/4

Quarter-finals: April 9/10/11

Semi-finals: April 30 – May 1/2

Challenge Cup final: Marseille – Friday, May 21

Heineken Champions Cup final: Marseille – Saturday, May 22