After the Top 14 Final was played last weekend, Stade Francais will join Aviva Premiership winners Saracens and Guinness PRO12 winners Glasgow Warriors as top seeds when the pool draw for the European Rugby Champions Cup takes place in Neuchâtel, Switzerland later on today.

The event will be streamed live from 1.15pm on with further coverage on Sky Sports News, and beIN Sports 1. The draw for the Challenge Cup pools will be followed by the pool draw for the Champions Cup.

Twenty clubs from the Aviva Premiership, the Top 14 and the Guinness PRO12 have qualified for the Champions Cup, however with meritocracy now in play, it is positioning in their respective leagues and not European form that will determine what tier each of the 20 clubs shall be placed.

As a result despite reaching the Champions Cup semi-finals last year, it is the fifth place Guinness PRO12 finish that matters in Leinster’s case and has earned them a place in the third tier. 

How does the tiered system work?

The 20 clubs will be divided into four tiers of five and a draw will be conducted to establish Tier 1 with two of the three second-ranked clubs – Bath Rugby, Munster Rugby and ASM Clermont Auvergne – joining the three champions Saracens, Glasgow Warriors and Stade Francais in the top tier.

Once Tier 1 has been established, the remaining three tiers will fall into place. Tier 2 will include the three third-ranked clubs from the leagues – Northampton Saints, RC Toulon and Ospreys – as well as the second-ranked club which was not drawn into Tier 1 and fourth-ranked club from the same league as the club which was not drawn into Tier 1.

Having finished fifth in the Guinness PRO12, Leinster take their place in Tier 3 together with the two clubs ranked fourth which are not in Tier 2 as well as the two other fifth-ranked clubs from each league – Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92. 

Tier 4 will contain the sixth-ranked clubs from the leagues – Wasps, Oyonnax and Scarlets – as well as Benetton Treviso and the winner of the Champions Cup play-offs, Bordeaux-Bègles.

When the tiers are completed, the draw proper for the five pools will be made, and during the draw, some clubs may have to be placed directly into a pool in order to ensure that the key principles apply (see below). 

In Tier 4, Wasps will be drawn into a pool which contains one other Aviva Premiership club and Oyonnax and Bordeaux-Bègles will be drawn into pools which each contain one other Top 14 club. 

Champions Cup qualification: 

For the purposes of creating the tiers, the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and PRO12 clubs are ranked based on their league performances and on their performances in the knockout phases. For clubs which did not qualify for the knockout phases of their leagues, or which were eliminated at the same stage of the knockout phase, rankings are decided by league table finishing positions.

Rank Aviva Premiership Top 14 PRO12
1 Saracens SF Paris Glasgow Warriors
2 Bath Rugby Clermont Munster Rugby
3 Northampton Saints RC Toulon Ospreys
4 Leicester Tigers Toulouse Ulster Rugby
5 Exeter Chiefs Racing 92 Leinster Rugby
6 Wasps? Oyonnax Scarlets
7   Bordeaux-Bègles Benetton Treviso

Pool draws – key principles:

  • The 20 clubs are divided into four tiers based on their qualification position from their leagues. This will be done where necessary by a draw.
  • The 20 clubs will then be divided into five pools of four clubs each.
  • Each of the five pools will have at least one club from each of the three leagues.
  • Each of the five pools will have one club from each of the four tiers.
  • There will be no more than two clubs from the same league in a pool.
  • No pool will contain two PRO12 clubs from the same country.
  • Clubs from the same league will be kept apart until the allocation of the Tier 4 clubs.

Fixtures – key dates:

Round 1: 12/13/14/15 November 
Round 2: 19/20/21/22 November 
Round 3: 10/11/12/13 December 
Round 4: 17/18/19/20 December 
Round 5: 14/15/16/17 January 2016 
Round 6: 21/22/23/24 January 2016 
Quarter-finals: 7/8/9/10 April 2016 
Semi-finals: 22/23/24 April 2016 
Final: 13/14 May 2016