|2015–16 European Rugby Challenge Cup|
|Tournament format(s)||Round-robin and Knockout|
|Date||12 November 2015 – 13 May 2016|
|Attendance||334,108 (5,477 per match)|
|Highest Attendance||28,556 |
Montpellier v Harlequins
13 May 2016
|Lowest Attendance||400 |
Enisey-STM v Newcastle Falcons
16 January 2016
|Tries scored||347 (5.69 per match)|
|Top point scorer(s)||Benoît Paillaugue (Montpellier)|
Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues)
|Top try scorer(s)||Marcus Watson (Newcastle Falcons)|
|Venue||Grand Stade de Lyon, Lyon|
|Champions||Montpellier (1st title)|
The 2015–16 European Rugby Challenge Cup was the second edition of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, an annual pan-European rugby union competition for professional clubs. It is also the 20th season of the Challenge Cup competition in all forms, following on from the now defunct European Challenge Cup. Due to the 2015 Rugby World Cup taking place during September and October 2015, the competition began slightly later than usual, with the first round of the group stage, on the weekend of 12/13/14/15 November 2015, and ended with the final on 13 May 2016 in Lyon.
20 teams qualified for the 2015–16 European Rugby Challenge Cup; a total of 18 qualified from across the Premiership, Pro12 and Top 14, as a direct result of their domestic league performance, with two coming through a play-off. The distribution of teams was:
As of 24 May 2015, the following clubs qualified for the Challenge Cup:
|Aviva Premiership||Top 14||Pro12||Qualifying Competition|
The following teams took part in play-off matches to decide the final team in the Champions Cup. The play-off was held between Premiership side Gloucester, as Challenge Cup winners, and teams from the Pro12 and Top 14.
|Aviva Premiership||Top 14||Pro 12|
The play-off was a two-match series, with the winner of the first match progressing to the second, and the winner of that second match qualifying for the Champions Cup. The two losing sides both joined the Challenge Cup.
24 May 2015
31 May 2015
In December 2014, EPCR announced an expanded format for the qualifying competition.
Six teams were to compete in two pools of three. Each team played the other once, either home or away. The winner of each pool then played a two-legged final against last year's qualifying sides, and the winners, on aggregate, took the two remaining places in the Challenge Cup.
Below is the list of coaches, captain and stadiums with their method of qualification for each team.
Note: Placing shown in brackets, denotes standing at the end of the regular season for their respective leagues, with their end of season positioning shown through CH for Champions, RU for Runner-up, SF for losing Semi-finalist and QF for losing Quarter-finalist.
Director of Rugby
|Captain||Stadium||Capacity||Method of Qualification|
|Agen||Philippe Sella||Lionel Mazars||Stade Armandie||14,000||Pro D2 runner-up|
|Brive||Nicolas Godignon||Arnaud Méla||Stade Amédée-Domenech||16,000||Top 14 7th-12th (10th)|
|Calvisano||Massimo Brunello||Tommaso Castello||Centro Sportivo San Michele||4,000||Challenge Cup Qualification Play-off|
|Cardiff Blues||Danny Wilson||Gethin Jenkins||BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park||12,500||Pro12 bottom 5 (10th)|
|Castres Olympique||Christophe Urios||Rodrigo Capo Ortega||Stade Pierre-Antoine||11,500||Top 14 7th-12th (12th)|
|Connacht||Pat Lam||John Muldoon||Sportsgrounds||7,800||7th Place play-off loser|
|Edinburgh||Alan Solomons||Mike Coman||Murrayfield Stadium||67,144[a]||Pro12 bottom 5 (8th)|
|Enisey-STM||Alexander Pervukhin||Jurijs Baranovs||Central Stadium
Sochi Central Stadium
|Challenge Cup Qualification Play-off|
|Gloucester||David Humphreys||Billy Twelvetrees||Kingsholm Stadium||16,500||7th Place play-off loser|
|Grenoble||Fabrice Landreau||Fabien Gengenbacher||Stade des Alpes||20,068||Top 14 7th-12th (11th)|
|Harlequins||Conor O'Shea||Danny Care||Twickenham Stoop||14,816||Aviva Premiership 7th-11th (8th)|
|La Rochelle||Patrice Collazo||Uini Atonio||Stade Marcel-Deflandre||15,000||Top 14 7th-12th (9th)|
|London Irish||Tom Coventry||George Skivington||Madejski Stadium||24,161||Aviva Premiership 7th-11th (10th)|
|Montpellier||Jake White||Fulgence Ouedraogo||Altrad Stadium||14,700||Top 14 7th-12th (8th)|
|Newcastle Falcons||John Wells||Will Welch||Kingston Park||10,200||Aviva Premiership 7th-11th (11th)|
|Newport Gwent Dragons||Lyn Jones||T. Rhys Thomas||Rodney Parade||8,500||Pro12 bottom 5 (9th)|
|Pau||Simon Mannix||Julien Pierre||Stade du Hameau||13,819||Pro D2 Champion|
|Sale Sharks||Steve Diamond||Daniel Braid||AJ Bell Stadium||12,000||Aviva Premiership 7th-11th (7th)|
|Worcester Warriors||Dean Ryan||Gerrit-Jan van Velze||Sixways Stadium||12,024||2014–15 RFU Championship Champion|
|Zebre||Gianluca Guidi||George Biagi||Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi||5,000||Pro12 bottom 5 (12th)|
The 20 competing teams were seeded and split into four tiers; seeding was based on performance in their respective domestic leagues. Where promotion and relegation is in effect in a league, the promoted team was seeded last, or (if multiple teams are promoted) by performance in the lower tier. So, Pau – who were Pro D2 champions – will be seeded above Agen – who qualified through the Pro D2 play-off.
|Rank||Top 14||Premiership||Pro 12||Qualifying Competition|
|3||Brive||Gloucester||Newport Gwent Dragons|
|4||Grenoble||London Irish||Cardiff Blues|
|5||Castres Olympique||Newcastle Falcons||Zebre|
Teams were taken from a league in order of rank and put into a tier. A draw was used to allocate two second seeds to Tier 1; the remaining team went into Tier 2. This allocation indirectly determined which fourth-seeded team entered Tier 2, while the others entered Tier 3.
Given the nature of the Qualifying Competition, a competition including developing rugby nations and Italian clubs not competing in the Pro12, Rugby Europe 1 and Rugby Europe 2 were automatically included in Tier 4, despite officially being ranked 1/2 from that competition.
The brackets show each team's seeding and their league (for example, 1 Top 14 indicates the team was seeded 1st from the Top 14).
|Tier 1||Connacht (1 Pro12)||Sale Sharks (1 AP)||Montpellier (1 Top 14)||La Rochelle (2 Top 14)||Edinburgh (2 Pro12)|
|Tier 2||Harlequins (2 AP)||Newport Gwent Dragons (3 Pro12)||Gloucester (3 AP)||Brive (3 Top 14)||London Irish (4 AP)|
|Tier 3||Grenoble (4 Top 14)||Cardiff Blues (4 Pro12)||Zebre (5 Pro12)||Newcastle Falcons (5 AP)||Castres Olympique (5 Top 14)|
|Tier 4||Worcester Warriors (6 AP)||Pau (Top 14)||Agen (Top 14)||Calvisano (QC 1)||Enisey-STM (QC 2)|
The following restrictions applied to the draw:
The draw took place on 17 June 2015.
Teams will play each other twice, both at home and away, in the group stage, that will begin on weekend of 12/13/14/15 November 2015, and continued through to 21/22/23/24 January 2016, before the pool winners and three best runners-up progressed to the quarter finals.
Teams will be awarded competition points, based on match result. Teams receive 4 points for a win, 2 points for a draw, 1 attacking bonus point for scoring four or more tries in a match and 1 defensive bonus point for losing a match by seven points or fewer.
In the event of a tie between two or more teams, the following tie-breakers will be used, as directed by EPCR:
|Winner of each pool, advanced to quarter-finals.|
|Three highest-scoring second-place teams advanced to quarter-finals.|
|Sale Sharks (3)||6||5||0||1||154||78||+76||20||9||3||0||23|
|Newport Gwent Dragons (7)||6||4||0||2||151||117||+34||17||16||3||1||20|
|London Irish (8)||6||3||0||3||170||106||+64||25||10||3||2||17|
|7||Newport Gwent Dragons||20||17||+34|
The eight qualifiers will be ranked according to performance in the pool stages, and competed in the quarter-finals, which will be held on the weekend of 8/9/10 April 2016. The four top seeds will host the quarter-finals against the lower seeds, in a 1v8, 2v7, 3v6 and 4v5 format.
The semi-finals will played on the weekend of 22/23/24 April 2016. In lieu of the draw that used to determine the semi-final pairing, EPCR announced that a fixed semi-final bracket would be set in advance, and that home advantage would be awarded to a side based on "performances by clubs during the pool stages as well as the achievement of a winning a quarter-final match away from home".
Home advantage, will be awarded as follows:
8 April 2016
|Sale Sharks (3)||19–25||(6) Montpellier|
|Try: Brady 21' m
James 76' m
Pen: Cipriani (3/3) 11', 32', 61'
|Report||Try: Willemse 14' c|
Con: Paillaugue (1/1) 15'
Pen: Paillaugue (6/8) 17', 45', 55', 64', 67', 71'
9 April 2016
|Gloucester (2)||21–23||(7) Newport Gwent Dragons|
|Try: Morgan 13' m
McColl 63' c
Con: Laidlaw (1/2) 64'
Pen: Laidlaw (3/3) 19', 26', 71'
|Report||Try: Davies 76' m|
Pen: D. Jones (6/6) 9', 16', 32', 39', 44', 54'
9 April 2016
|Grenoble (4)||33–32||(5) Connacht|
|Try: Wisniewski 32' c
Dupont 61' c
Diaby 69' c
Con: Wisniewski (3/3) 33', 62', 70'
Pen: Wisniewski (3/3) 20', 37', 40'
Drop: Wisniewski (1/1) 75'
|Report||Try: Adeolokun (2) 11' c, 28' c|
Henshaw 22' m
Healy 42' c
Con: O'Leary (3/4) 12', 29', 43'
Pen: O'Leary (1/1) 53'
Cooney (1/1) 72'
9 April 2016
|Harlequins (1)||38–30||(8) London Irish|
|Try: Wallace (2) 6' m, 61' m
Care (3) 20' c, 52' m, 74' c
Con: Botica (2/5) 22', 76'
Pen: Botica (3/4) 26', 36', 71'
|Report||Try: Mulchrone 27' c|
McKibbin 44' c
Maitland 50' c
Con: Geraghty (3/3) 28', 45', 51'
Pen: Geraghty (3/3) 13', 24', 33'
22 April 2016
|Try: Roberts 11' c
Evans 53' c
Lowe 68' c
Con: Botica (1/1) 12'
Evans (2/2) 54', 68'
Pen: Botica (2/2) 6', 17'
Evans (1/2) 66'
|Report||Pen: Wisniewski (2/2) 15', 26'|
23 April 2016
|Montpellier||22–12||Newport Gwent Dragons|
|Try: B. du Plessis 59' c
Con: Catrakilis (1/1) 60'
Pen: Catrakilis (4/4) 20', 28', 32', 54'
Paillaugue (1/1) 35'
|Report||Try: Amos 61' m|
Meyer 77' c
Con: O'Brien (1/2) 78'
13 May 2016
|Try: Yarde 71' c
Con: Botica (1/1) 72'
Pen: Evans (3/3) 4', 31', 34'
Botica (1/1) 77'
|Report||Try: Mogg 22' c, 47' c|
Con: Catrakilis (2/2) 23', 48'
Pen: Catrakilis (4/4) 7', 28', 54', 67'
|Newport Gwent Dragons||3||12,973||4,324||4,455||4,202||49%|