South Africa's Cheetahs are the other side invited to the competition by EPCR
Black Lion will become the first Georgian side to play in the European Challenge Cup after being named as one of two sides to be invited to take part in the competition by organisers EPCR.
The other team turning out in the second-tier European competition will be South Africa’s Cheetahs, the recent winners of this year’s Currie Cup, who return to the competition after taking part in 2022-23.
Black Lion, the back-to-back winners of the Rugby Europe Super Cup, will be in a pool alongside Top 14 sides Clermont and Castres as well as Premiership outfit Gloucester and the URC’s Scarlets. They will play their home games in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
Ioseb (Soso) Tkemaladze, President of Georgian Rugby, said: “This is a hugely important moment for Georgian rugby. We’ve all been working hard for this – on the pitch and behind the scenes – for many years.
“Having won the Rugby Europe Super Cup two years running Black Lion are ready to step up to this new challenge and compete against the best from France, England and the URC.
“Whenever Georgian rugby players get the opportunity to test themselves against elite opposition they rise to the occasion. The proof is there in the results of our national team, our Under 20s – who have performed so brilliantly at the World Championships, and the Black Lion. The national team demonstrated its progress last year with victories over Italy and Wales and this breakthrough moment for Georgian rugby, is a significant step for the future of rugby in general.
“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. My personal gratitude to Dom McKay and his amazing team for all of their hard work and support.”
Related: European Challenge Cup fixtures
Reaction to Georgian side Black Lion being in Challenge Cup
EPCR Chairman, Dominic McKay, added: “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.”
Toyota Cheetahs Chief Executive, Ross van Reenen, said: “We are pleased to have been invited to compete again in the EPCR Challenge Cup and after qualifying for the knockout stage last season, we believe we have the capacity to perform to a higher level in 2023/24. We are looking forward to making a big impression in Pool 1 of the tournament.”
One side to miss out on being picked to participate were Israel’s first professional club Tel Aviv Heat who EPCR said produced an “an impressive application and have been performing strongly in the Rugby Europe Super Cup”.
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