United Rugby Championship: Boss Anayi hopes for Champions Cup qualification meritocracy – BBC News

South African sides ‘among top 10 in world’ – URC chief Martin Anayi

United Rugby Championship (URC) chief executive Martin Anayi hopes the revamped tournament could gradually embrace full meritocracy for Heineken Champions Cup places.

The Pro14 will rebrand when South Africa’s four teams join the competition to form a 16-team league..

The top eight sides will reach the play-offs but not achieve automatic qualification for Europe’s elite competition.

That will be partly based on geography.

Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls will play alongside existing teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales with South African sides allowed into European tournaments for the first time for the 2022-23 season.

The top eight will qualify for the Champions Cup and the rest will play in the Challenge Cup.

Within the 16 teams, there will be four regional pools with the quartet of Irish, Welsh and South African sides grouped together and the two Scottish and Italian sides in the other.

All points won during the URC season will contribute to rankings in four regional pools, and the highest-ranked team in each of the four groups will earn a Champions Cup place for the following season.

The remaining four allocated spots will go to the four highest-placed league teams that have not already qualified through their pools.

Anayi admits the long-term goal of the top eight sides qualifying for the European elite tournament remains a goal, but geography will provide a factor initially.

The United Rugby Championship – how the revamped competition will work

“They create a mechanism for the top team within the regional shield to get a place in the Champions Cup,” said Anayi.

“We still believe there is a meritocracy and jeopardy to that. We were quite strong in that the top eight will go into the play-offs regardless of what territory they are from.

“The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup is a bit of a different beast because it’s a cup competition and traditionally you want to see a wider representation from different territories to give it that spice.

“The French and English teams are keen to play against teams from as wide a group as possible.

“We think over a transitional period, a couple of years, then we can potentially move to meritocracy.

“You don’t always have to be perfect first time out, but we will give it a good shot to see if we can get meritocracy and qualification working together.”

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