7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
This means there will be 14 matches in Round 1 of the PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP, producing 14 winners to move into the second round. The two best defeated teams will join the 14 winners in Round 2 as 'Lucky Losers', providing eight games in that round.
Meanwhile, the 12 remaining first round losers will move into Round 1 of the PARKER PEN SHIELD where they will be joined by four additional teams, two from Spain - UC Madrid, UE Santboiana - and two from Portugal - Clube Rugby Lisboa and RC Coimbra.
The arrival of the two Portuguese teams means the welcome addition of a new nation to the European club rugby family.
Those four newcomers to the PARKER PEN SHIELD will be drawn in such a way in Round 1 of that tournament that they cannot meet a team from their own nation. Once again, all matches in both competitions will be played on a home and away basis.
One further change from the mechanics of last season's tournament is that the draw for home and away status in the first leg of Rounds 2 to the semi-final in the PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP, and Round 1 to the semi-finals in the PARKER PEN SHIELD, will be conducted after the initial draw has been made.
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux said: 'After the success of last year's new format for the PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP competition we are delighted to be able to stay with the same formula that met with such huge approval with all players and fans that culminated in a great double-header at the Madejski Stadium in Reading that attracted over 18,000 spectators.
'The restructuring process that has gone on in Wales has left us without any Welsh representation in the 2003 / 2004 tournament. We have also lost our Romanian representative because of logistical difficulties.
'However, any tournament that can boast two winners of the Heineken Cup - Bath Rugby and Brive - four of last season's Heineken Cup sides - Viadana, London Irish, Glasgow Rugby and Montferrand - and three other European Shield champions - Pau, NEC Harlequins and Castres Olympique - is bound to grab the attention of rugby lovers across Europe.'