|2018–19 European Rugby Challenge Cup|
|Tournament format(s)||Round-robin and Knockout|
|Date||12 October 2018 - 10 May 2019|
|Attendance||510,167 (7,730 per match)|
Clermont v La Rochelle (Final)
10 May 2019
Enisei-STM v Bristol Bears
12 January 2019
|Tries scored||474 (7.18 per match)|
|Top point scorer(s)|| Ihaia West (La Rochelle)|
|Top try scorer(s)|| Peter Betham (Clermont)|
|Venue||St James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne|
|Champions||Clermont (3rd title)|
The 2018–19 European Rugby Challenge Cup is the fifth edition of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, an annual second-tier rugby union competition for professional clubs. Including the predecessor competition, the original European Challenge Cup, this is the 23rd edition of European club rugby's second-tier competition. Clubs from five of the nations that participate in the Six Nations Championship (Scotland being the only exception), along with club-sides from Romania and Russia, are competing.
The first round of the group stage began on 12 October 2018, and the competition will end with the final on 10 May 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. This will be the second time the final will be held in England in the era of the current Challenge Cup, and the 12th including finals of the original Challenge Cup.
A total of 20 teams qualified for the 2018–19 European Rugby Challenge Cup; 18 qualified from across the Gallagher Premiership, Guinness Pro14 and Top 14, as a direct result of their domestic league performance, with two qualifying through the Continental Shield competition. Subject to the allocation of the 20th place in the 2018–19 Champions Cup as per EPCR rules, the expected distribution of teams is:
The following clubs qualified for the Challenge Cup.
|Gallagher Premiership||Top 14||Pro14||Continental Shield|
The qualification tournament was reformatted as a competition in its own right, the European Rugby Continental Shield, in 2017. Eight teams were split into two pools of four to compete in the pool stage of the European Rugby Continental Shield. Each team played the four teams in the other pool once. The winner of each pool then played-off against the runner-up of the other pool. The winners of these two qualifying play-offs played each other in a two-legged play-off for a place in the Challenge Cup.
The two Russian teams who had competed in the 2017–18 tournament played each other in a two-legged qualifying play-off for a place in the Challenge Cup. The winners of the two qualifying play-offs, having both qualified for the Challenge Cup, then played each other in the European Rugby Continental Shield final in May 2018.
|Team 1||Agg.||Team 2||1st leg||2nd leg|
|Team 1||Agg.||Team 2||1st leg||2nd leg|
|Timișoara Saracens||41–47||Heidelberger RK||26–20||15–27|
Heidelberger RK were due to become the first German club to take part in either of the two major European rugby union competitions after qualification from the 2017–18 European Rugby Continental Shield. However, they were ruled ineligible by EPC Rugby due to their primary financial backer, Hans-Peter Wild, also being the majority shareholder in Stade Français and therefore being in a position to influence two teams in the competition.
Timișoara Saracens, who had been eliminated by Heidelberger RK at the Continental Shield semi-final stage (effectively the Challenge Cup play-off) were confirmed as their replacement on 11 June 2018.
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|| Mauricio Reggiardo
|Antoine Erbani||Stade Armandie||14,000||Top 14 8th-12th (11th)|
|Benetton||Kieran Crowley||Dean Budd||Stadio Comunale di Monigo||6,700||Pro14 (5B)|
|Bordeaux Bègles||Rory Teague||Clément Maynadier||Stade Chaban-Delmas||34,694||Top 14 8th-12th (10th)|
|Bristol Bears||Pat Lam||N/A (Leadership Group)||Ashton Gate||27,000||RFU Championship Champion|
|Clermont||Franck Azéma||Damien Chouly||Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin||19,022||Top 14 8th-12th (9th)|
|Connacht||Andy Friend||Jarrad Butler||Galway Sportsgrounds||8,129||Pro14 (6A)|
|Dragons||Bernard Jackman||Cory Hill||Rodney Parade||8,700||Pro14 (6B)|
|Enisei-STM||Alexander Pervukhin||Uldis Saulite||Krasny Yar Stadium
Sochi Central Stadium
|Continental Shield Champions|
|Grenoble|| Stéphane Glas
|Antonin Berruyer||Stade des Alpes||20,068||Pro D2 play-off winner|
|Harlequins|| Paul Gustard
| James Horwill
|Twickenham Stoop||14,800||Premiership 8th-11th (10th)|
|La Rochelle|| Xavier Garbajosa
|Victor Vito||Stade Marcel-Deflandre||16,000||Top 14 8th-12th (7th)|
|Northampton Saints||Chris Boyd|| Dylan Hartley
|Franklin's Gardens||15,249||Premiership 8th-11th (9th)|
|Ospreys||Allen Clarke||Justin Tipuric||Liberty Stadium||20,827||Pro14 (5A) [b]|
|Pau||Simon Mannix||Julien Tomas||Stade du Hameau||18,324||Top 14 8th-12th (8th)|
|Perpignan|| Alain Hyardet
|Guillaume Vilaceca||Stade Aimé Giral||14,593||Pro D2 Champion|
|Sale Sharks||Steve Diamond||Jono Ross||AJ Bell Stadium||12,000||Premiership 8th-11th (8th)|
|Stade Français||Heyneke Meyer||Sergio Parisse||Stade Jean-Bouin||20,000||Top 14 (12th)|
|Timișoara Saracens||Chester Williams||Vasile Rus||Stadionul Dan Păltinișanu||32,972||Continental Shield (3rd) [c]|
|Worcester Warriors||Alan Solomons||GJ van Velze||Sixways Stadium||11,499||Premiership 8th-11th (11th)|
|Zebre||Michael Bradley||Tommaso Castello||Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi||5,000||Pro14 (7A)|
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 competition. 
|Rank||Top 14||Premiership||Pro 14||Continental Shield|
|1||La Rochelle||Sale Sharks||Benetton||Enisei-STM|
|2||Pau||Northampton Saints||Ospreys||Timișoara Saracens|
Teams are taken from a league in order of rank and put into a tier. A draw is used to allocate two second seeds to Tier 1; the remaining team goes into Tier 2. This allocation indirectly determines which fourth-seeded team entered Tier 2, while the others enter Tier 3.
Given the nature of the Continental Shield — a competition including developing rugby nations and Italian clubs not competing in the Pro14 — the two qualifiers from that competition were automatically included in Tier 4 and are seeded equally, despite officially being ranked 1 and 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||Sale Sharks (1 Prem)||Benetton (1 Pro14)||La Rochelle (1 Top 14)||Pau (2 Top 14)||Northampton Saints (2 Prem)|
|Tier 2||Ospreys (2 Pro14)||Harlequins (3 Prem)||Connacht (3 Pro14)||Clermont (3 Top 14)||Zebre (4 Pro14)|
|Tier 3||Worcester Warriors (4 Prem)||Bordeaux (4 Top 14)||Bristol Bears (5 Prem)||Dragons (5 Pro14)||Agen (5 Top 14)|
|Tier 4||Stade Français (6 Top 14)||Perpignan (7 Top 14)||Grenoble (8 Top 14)||Enisei-STM (CS 1)||Timișoara Saracens (CS 2)|
The draw took place on 20 June 2018 in the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Teams in the same pool play each other twice, both at home and away in the group stage started in October 2018, and continues through to January 2019. The pool winners and three best runners-up progressed to the quarter finals.
Teams are awarded competition points, based on match result. Teams receive four points for a win, two points for a draw, one attacking bonus point for scoring four or more tries in a match and one 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, advance to quarter-finals.|
|Three highest-scoring second-place teams advance to quarter-finals.|
|Northampton Saints (8)||6||4||0||2||282||127||155||51||18||5||0||21|
|Worcester Warriors (4)||6||5||0||1||150||125||25||19||16||2||0||22|
|Sale Sharks (3)||6||4||0||2||196||108||88||27||12||4||2||22|
|La Rochelle (2)||6||5||0||1||238||104||134||32||15||4||0||24|
|Bristol Bears (7)||6||4||0||2||267||108||159||42||13||4||1||21|
The eight qualifiers are ranked according to their performance in the pool stage and compete in the quarter-finals which will be held on the weekend of 28–31 March 2019. The four top teams will host the quarter-finals against the four lower teams in a 1v8, 2v7, 3v6 and 4v5 format.
The semi-finals will be played on the weekend of 19–21 April 2019. As in recent seasons, a fixed semi-final bracket is set in advance. However, beginning this season the higher-seeded team will host each semi-final regardless of whether they won their quarter-final at home or on the road.
The winners of the semi-finals will contest the final, at St James' Park, on 10 May 2019.
|Sale Sharks (3)||20–10||(6) Connacht|
|Try: McGuigan 9' c
Solomona 14' c
Con: MacGinty (2/2) 10', 16'
Pen: MacGinty (2/2) 28', 33'
|Report||Try: Godwin 67' c|
Con: Leader (1/1) 68'
Pen: Carty (1/2) 7'
|Worcester Warriors (4)||16–18||(5) Harlequins|
|Try: Heem 23' m
Howe 46' m
Con: Weir (0/2)
Pen: Weir (2/3) 60', 74'
|Report||Try: Murley 16' m|
Tapuai 67' c
Con: Smith (0/1)
Catrakilis (1/1) 69'
Pen: Smith (1/1) 36'
Catrakilis (1/1) 75'
|La Rochelle (2)||39–15||(7) Bristol Bears|
|Try: Alldritt 12' c
Penalty try 20'
Doumayrou 26' c
Liebenberg 40' m
Rattez 71' c
Con: West (2/3) 13', 27'
Lamb (1/1) 72'
Pen: West (2/2) 7', 52'
|Report||Try: Luatua 35' c|
O'Conor 79' m
Con: Madigan (1/1) 36'
Pen: Madigan (1/1) 17'
|Clermont (1)||61–38||(8) Northampton Saints|
|Try: Betham (3) 19' m, 48' m, 76' c
Penaud (3) 25' c, 57' c, 75' c
Penalty try 27'
Nanai-Williams 71' c
Con: Parra (1/3) 26'
Laidlaw (4/4) 58', 72', 76', 77'
Pen: Parra (2/2) 1', 43'
Laidlaw (1/1) 69'
|Report||Try: Tuala 55' c|
Burrell 61' c
Mitchell 63' c
Hutchinson 65' c
Moon 78' c
Con: Hutchinson (5/5) 56', 61', 63', 66', 79'
Pen: Biggar (1/1) 9'
|La Rochelle (2)||24–20||(3) Sale Sharks|
|Try: Penalty try 23'
Murimurivalu 25' c
Alldritt 50' c
Con: West (2/2) 27', 52'
Pen: West (1/2) 16'
|Report||Try: Penalty try 13'|
Ashton 33' c
Con: MacGinty (1/1) 34'
Pen: MacGinty (2/3) 20', 68'
|Clermont (1)||32–27||(5) Harlequins|
|Try: Lee 31' c
Penaud 35' c
Con: Parra (2/2) 33', 36'
Pen: Parra (4/4) 28', 40'+3, 47', 54'
Drop: Lopez (2/2) 9', 25'
|Report||Try: Brown 38' m|
Robshaw 57' c
Lang 65' c
Dombrandt 79' m
Con: Smith (2/4) 58', 66'
Pen: Smith (1/1) 12'
|Clermont (1)||36–16||(2) La Rochelle|
|Try: Penaud 30' c
Lee 60' c
Fofana 72' c
Con: Laidlaw (3/3) 31', 61', 72'
Pen: Parra (1/1) 13'
Laidlaw (4/4) 23', 52', 57', 80'
|Report||Try: Atonio 65'|
Con: West (1/1) 66'
Pen: West (3/4) 25', 35', 48'
Top points scorers
Top try scorers
111–3 Northampton Saints at home to Timișoara Saracens on 18 January 2019
82–21 La Rochelle away to Enisei-STM on 13 October 2018
111–3 Northampton Saints at home to Timișoara Saracens on 18 January 2019
Bristol Bears at home Enisei-STM on 19 January 2019
Northampton Saints at home to Timișoara Saracens on 18 January 2019
La Rochelle away to Zebre on 19 January 2018
Clermont at home to Harlequins on 20 April 2019
Ihaia West for La Rochelle away to Zebre on 19 January 2019
Camille Lopez for Clermont at home to Harlequins on 20 April 2019
Clermont versus La Rochelle on 10 May 2019 (Final)
Enisei-STM at home to Bristol Bears on 12 January 2019