By David Williams
The Scarlets will face opposition from Georgia for the first time next season when they meet Black Lion in the European Challenge Cup.
EPCR have announced that Georgia’s Black Lion and the Cheetahs from South Africa have accepted invitations to compete in the 2023/24 tournament.
The Cheetahs return for a second season, having reached the knockout stages of the 2022/23 campaign, while the Black Lion become the first Georgian club to compete in one of EPCR’s main professional tournaments.
Black Lion make their historic tournament debut in Pool 3, where they will take on two former tournament winners in Gloucester and Clermont Auvergne, as well as Castres and Scarlets, with their two home matches staged in Tbilisi.
🇬🇪 Tbilisi anyone? Georgian side @BlackLionRugby have been confirmed in Scarlets’ EPCR Challenge Cup pool for the 2023-24 season
Tîm Black Lion o Georgia wedi’ i enwi ym mhwll Cwpan Her y Scarlets
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) July 6, 2023
The Cheetahs have been added to Pool 1, where they will face Oyonnax Rugby, Section Paloise, Sharks and Zebre Parma. The Currie Cup champions have agreed to use Amsterdam in the Netherlands as their ‘home base’ when facing European opponents.
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.”
🚨 CONFIRMED 🚨
Georgia’s Black Lion and South Africa’s Cheetahs are the two invited teams for the 2023/24 Challenge Cup season. pic.twitter.com/XbkLK9ADFZ
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) July 6, 2023
The Toyota Cheetahs will face Oyonnax Rugby, Section Paloise, Cell C Sharks and Zebre Parma in Pool 1 and will play the majority of their home games in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
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.”
Full details of the fixture schedules for the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup will be announced soon.
#Georgia’s 🇬🇪 Black Lion will play in the EPCR @ChallengeCup_ next season!@BlackLionRugby whose 2 home matches will be in #Tbilisi, will be in pool with Gloucester 🏴, Clermont Auvergne 🇫🇷, Castres Olympique 🇫🇷 and Scarlets 🏴 pic.twitter.com/hqeFvtk34H
— Shalva Tsiskarashvili (@tsiskarashvili) July 6, 2023