The Champions Cup will be competed for by 24 clubs during the 2020/21 season with the eight highest-ranked representatives from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP 14 securing their places.
The increase sees four additional teams granted entrance into the league with the clubs being divided into two pools of 12 by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over eight weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage followed by a knockout stage consisting of home and away quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final in Marseille on 22 May 2021.
Explanation of the format.
In short, eight teams from each league will feature in the competition and will be ranked into Tiers (1-4) before being split into two pools of 12 (Pool A and Pool B).
There will not be any domestic repeats in the Pool stage. Clubs in the same Tier from the same league will not play each other in the pool stage.
Clubs in Tier 1 will play teams in Tier 4 while Tier 2 clubs will play Tier 3 clubs with each team playing a total of four matches in the pool stage (2 home and 2 away) with the four highest-ranked clubs qualify for the quarter-finals.
The quarter-finals will be played over two legs (home and away) while the four next best clubs qualify for the Round of 16 in the Challenge Cup with the semi-finals and final of the Champions Cup remaining unchanged (one leg).
Who are the big winners from the new draw?
The Dragons and Connacht are the two big winners from the PRO14 as both teams would have missed out on the Champions Cup under the previous season's rules. This does mean that the two are likely to be pitted against the likes of Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks, Bordeaux and Lyon - based on the current Premiership table.
There are a number of Premiership clubs that could sneak their way into the Champions Cup as things stand with five rounds remaining in the regular season. The current top eight consists of Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks, Bristol Bears, Wasps, Bath, Northampton Saints and Harlequins with Gloucester just a point off Harlequins. London Irish are 7 points off of Gloucester and eight off of the Harlequins with a favourable run of fixtures, while unlikely, they could cause a shock and force their way in. Leicester Tigers could also qualify for the tournament if they are able to win the Challange Cup and would then take the eighth Premiership spot.
French club and Toulouse look to be one of the biggest winners from the new format with Toulouse particularly lucky to make the competition. When the 2019/20 Top 14 season was abandoned, Toulouse sat seventh on the overall table and would have had to win the Champions Cup to remain in the competition.
There will also be a nervous wait for Montpellier with Castres still in the running for the Challenge Cup. If Castres do win the Challenge Cup, they will beat Montpellier to a place in the Champions Cup next season.