The decision by the Board of ERC to offer a place to the FPR follows the withdrawal of the Spanish club, Olympus Rugby XV, due to financial reasons. ERC has been working with the Spanish Rugby Union (FER) since the end of July to endeavour to assist it in fulfilling its initial commitment to participate in the tournament, but regrettably the FER had no option but to withdraw Olympus Rugby XV.
When seeking a replacement, ERC reviewed proposals from Italy, Romania and Portugal, and following a meeting with the FPR toassess the feasibility of its representative's participation, and the suitability of their facilities, the Board of ERC confirmed Lusitanos XV as the new Pool 5 club.
Playing their home matches in the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon, Lusitanos XV will replace Olympus Rugby XV in the 2013/14 Amlin Challenge Cup fixture schedule with the games in the first four rounds of the tournament going ahead on the dates as previously communicated. The team will be selected from the best available domestic players competing in Portugal's national club tournament, the Campeonato Nacional Honra.
ERC is currently liaising with the Pool 5 clubs with regard to Lusitanos XV's participation and any impact it may have.
A Portuguese team first competed in the Challenge Cup in 1998/99 and their participation this season will enhance a tournament which showcases the ambitions of premier and emerging clubs across Europe. The 2013/14 Amlin Challenge Cup will now feature 20 clubs from England, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Wales, and will include former winners in Bath Rugby (2008), Biarritz Olympique (2012), London Wasps (2003) and Sale Sharks (2005).
The European club rugby season kicks off Thursday, 10 October with the Amlin Challenge Cup final scheduled for the Cardiff Arms Park on 23 May 2014 ahead of the Heineken Cup final which will be played the following day at the Millennium Stadium.
2013/14 Amlin Challenge Cup pools
Pool 1Biarritz Olympique, Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors, Oyonnax
Pool 2 Bath Rugby, Newport Gwent Dragons, Bordeaux-Bègles, Mogliano Rugby
Pool 3 Brive, Newcastle Falcons, Cammi Rugby Calvisano, Bucharest Wolves
Pool 4 London Wasps, Rugby Viadana, Bayonne, Grenoble
Pool 5 Stade Francais Paris, London Irish, I Cavalieri Prato, Lusitanos XV
Amlin Challenge Cup final- Cardiff Arms Park; Friday, 23 May 2014 (20.00)
Heineken Cup final - Millennium Stadium; Saturday, 24 May 2014 (17.00)