Georgia’s Black Lion will take their place as an invitational club in the Scarlets’ EPCR Challenge Cup pool for the 2023-24 season.
Black Lion will play their two home games in Tbilisi and will take on the Scarlets, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Castres Olympique and Gloucester Rugby in Pool 3.
South African Currie Cup side Toyota Cheetahs have also accepted an invitation to compete and will be Pool 1 where they will take on Oyonnax Rugby, Section Paloise, Cell C Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool 1 with Amsterdam in the Netherlands as their agreed ‘home’ base when pitted against European opponents. Their pool stage match against the Cell C Sharks will be played in either Bloemfontein or Durban depending on the outcome of the current fixture scheduling process.
EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, said: “The inclusion of Black Lion and the return of the Toyota Cheetahs reflect a continuing commitment to widen the scope of our tournaments and to showcase new, exciting talent for fans worldwide. The Toyota Cheetahs have already enhanced the EPCR Challenge Cup with their performance last season, and we are confident that the Georgians’ passion and physicality will further raise the intensity of the tournament.”
Georgian Rugby Union President, Ioseb Tkemaladze, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby and for the country. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years. We’re grateful to EPCR for taking a lead and showing the vision that is needed to further the global development and growth of the game. My personal gratitude to Dominic McKay and his amazing team for their hard work and support.”
The two clubs were offered invitations to compete following a detailed and competitive tender process during which EPCR received interest from clubs across Europe and beyond, including an impressive application from Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional club, who have been performing strongly in the Rugby Europe Super Cup.
EPCR will continue to engage with Rugby Europe to discuss future plans.
Full details of the fixture schedules for the 2023-24 EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup will be announced as soon as practicable, with the tournaments set to kick off with the first round of pool stage matches on the weekend of December 8-10.