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Bilbao, Newcastle to host European rugby showpieces

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced that the Spanish city of Bilbao will host its showpiece Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and Continental Shield finals in 2018, while Newcastle in England will stage the events in 2019.

Next year will be the first time that the finals have taken place outside of Europe’s traditional rugby territories after Bilbao saw off competition in a “competitive” tender process to secure hosting rights.

The city’s San Mamés Stadium (pictured), the recently-redeveloped home of LaLiga football club, Athletic Bilbao, will host the games. Bilbao’s successful bid was backed by the Spanish Rugby Federation, the country’s Ministry of Sport, Biscay Province, the Basque Government and the City of Bilbao.

Last year, Barcelona in Spain staged the Top 14 final, the showpiece, end-of-season event for France’s top-tier club rugby union competition, and EPCR chairman Simon Halliday is hopeful that the Bilbao games will be just as successful.

“We are very excited to be taking the best club rugby in the world to fans in what is largely a new market,” Halliday said. “Bilbao is an excellent destination which breaks new ground for our tournaments and we see this as a big step in the expansion of our sport across the continent.

“Fans have previously flocked to matches in Spain both in the European Cup and for last season’s Top 14 final, and they will be sure of a unique, atmospheric weekend in 2018.”

The 2019 Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and Continental Shield finals will take place at St James’ Park, home of English Championship football club Newcastle United.

Last year’s finals took place at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France, and this year’s games will run from October 14-16 at Murrayfield in the Scottish city of Edinburgh.

“Newcastle's commitment to the bid also made it an easy decision to award them the finals in 2019, building on their significant experience of staging major sporting occasions including Rugby World Cup 2015 matches,” Halliday said.

EPCR director general, Vincent Gaillard, added: “We had exceptional bids for the 2018 finals which is testimony to the transparent and detailed process that we have implemented.

“To successfully engage with an unprecedented number of bidding cities over the last months shows the attractive proposition that our finals present and we see this a really positive sign for the future of European professional club rugby.”