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Champions Cup final planned for October 17 with one-off expansion to 24 teams on cards for next season

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12 May 2018; The Leinster team celebrate with the cup after the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. SPORTSFILE.

12 May 2018; The Leinster team celebrate with the cup after the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. SPORTSFILE.

SPORTSFILE

12 May 2018; The Leinster team celebrate with the cup after the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. SPORTSFILE.

Organisers of the Heineken Champions Cup hope to hold the final on October 17 and have admitted that next year's tournament could be expanded to 24 teams on a once-off basis.

An increase in teams would satisfy French clubs after their season was abandoned, but it would also be a big boost to Connacht who will almost certainly be one of the eight Guinness PRO14 teams to make the grade meaning all four provinces would be at Europe's top table next season.

Finishing this year's competition remains the priority for EPCR and it looks like the quarter-finals and semi-finals could be played in late September and early October, before the final if restrictions on travel and public health allow.

If they can go ahead, Leinster would host Saracens at the Aviva Stadium and Ulster would travel to Toulouse for their last eight clash. The final is planned for the French city of Marseille.

It remains to be seen if the matches can take place in front of crowds and EPCR could yet have a battle on their hands with World Rugby as unions scramble to re-fix postponed internationals to generate revenue.

"As part of its future planning, and with the extraordinary circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront, EPCR can confirm that a number of tournament formats are being considered for the 2020/21 season," the statement read.

"Ongoing discussions with EPCR’s league and union shareholders regarding new formats have included the possibility of a 24-club Heineken Champions Cup with eight representatives from each of Europe’s leading league competitions, played over eight weekends. If adopted, any new format would apply to next season’s tournament only on an exceptional basis.

"In the meantime, EPCR remains committed to making every effort to conclude the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season subject to official advice and with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community in mind.

"It is hoped that the 2020 finals could be staged on October 16 and 17."

Online Editors