Sunday, 6 July 2014

Further details on plans for the Qualifying Tournament emerge


Following the revelation of some details of September playoffs, gradually there is becoming some more updated news on the inaugural Qualifying Competition next season.

Previously it was planned that in September there would be 2 rounds of home/away legs to reach the European Rugby Challenge Cup, with a Georgian team facing a Portuguese team and a Romanian team facing a Russian team and the winners playing off with the top 2 of the Italian league for the place.

However according to the GRU president Giorgi Nijaradze there have been some alterations to what had been planned. The Portuguese did not put themselves forward for participating meaning that the Georgian team will now likely just skip the first round for a direct home/away playoff with Rovigo, with that happening it seems the whole 1st round has been ditched with a Romanian team also going straight ahead to challenge Calvisano with the Russian team dropping out.

Meanwhile some further details on the bulk of the Qualifying Tournament have emerged. It appears that the losers of the September playoffs, will drop down and join six other teams split out into two pools of four teams to be played alongside the primary and secondary European tournaments.

Joining the two losers in the September playoffs in the pool tournament appear most likely to be another two Italian sides in Mogliano and Viadana (3rd and 4th in the Eccellenza), as well as Krasny Yar (Russian champions), El Salvador (Spanish runners up after the champions VRAC turned down the chance to play) with the other two most likely Portuguese and German teams or possibly a Dutch team.

The winners of each pool would then playoff with each team in the Spring, possibly alongside the knockout stages of the main competitions, to decide the competitors in next season's Rugby Challenge Cup replacing this year's September playoffs.
Could Spring playoffs mean that
qualifiers will be rewarded should
they pull of upset victories?
Such as Bucharest Wolves vs
Agen pictured above.

If true then this opens up the possibility that if a qualified side goes on an unlikely winning run and say wins a couple of games and finishes 2nd or 3rd in their pool for example, that it may then remove the farce that would be them having to requalify the next season whilst sides they beat get automatically qualified. Played in the Spring on a European knockout weekend a side from the main 3 leagues could play in a playoff to keep their or their league's place in next season's tournament, whilst that couldn't have happened in September.

Also if the rumoured detail on the pool stages are accurate it would mean that the entire second tier of the 6 Nations would have a team in intercontinental competition with a possibility of progression, and the nations with EPCR would raise to 12 compared to the 8 involved with ERC.

Alberto en un partido de la temproada pasada
The FER confirmed that Spanish
runners up El Salvador will play in
European competition next season
after the winners VRAC, also from
Valladolid, turned down the chance
Most of exact identities of the teams are still to be confirmed though. However this weekend the FER confirmed the participation of a club in El Salvador from Valladolid who are the only team now sealed. Otherwise the Italians seem pretty likely, Russia seem most likely enter a club in Krasny Yar, Georgia are still pondering whether to put forward a club or a larger combined regional team but it looks most likely it will be the latter with a regional team called Tbilisi-Ameri with the Georgian league champions Lelo's coach in charge. There's been little news meanwhile on whether Romania are planning on Timisoara or their Bucharest Wolves side. The Portuguese, who have had some financial difficulty of late, appear to have a cloud over their participation at this stage though.

At the minute everything is subject to change and this is all just from reports, decisions are likely to start being finalised later this month on July 23.

Likely Qualifying Tournament:

September Playoffs:
Playoff 1: Tbilisi-Ameri (regional team) vs Rovigo
Playoff 2: Bucharest Wolves (development team) vs Calvisano
Played over 2 legs on 20 & 27 September

European Rugby Challenge Cup:
Pool 1: Cardiff Blues, London Irish, Grenoble, Winner of Playoff 1
Pool 3: Stade Français, Dragons, Newcastle, Winner of Playoff 2

Qualifying Tournament:
2 Pools of 4: Loser of Playoff 1, Loser of Playoff 2, Mogliano, Viadana, Krasny Yar, El Salvador, Portuguese team, German team
Played as a round robin in October, December and January

Spring Playoffs:
Playoff 1: Pool 1 winner vs Worst team from Rugby Challenge Cup 1
Playoff 2: Pool 2 winner vs Worst team from Rugby Challenge Cup 2

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