Lots to play for in both European competitions’ final rounds

Lots to play for in both European competitions’ final rounds

It’s all about qualifying for the remaining six quarter-final places as the Champions Cup reaches its final round this weekend.

Of course, over and above the coveted knock-out places, the quarter-finalists will also be vying for home ground advantage.

Log-leaders Edinburgh Rugby did so on Friday night when they won what was a must-win encounter for Monpellier 19-10 at Murrayfield. Edinburgh thereby ended a seven-year drought in Europe and secured a home quarterfinal, leaving six play-off berths to be played for. Edinburgh will now host one of the four matches in the first round of the play-offs at the end of March.

Also on Friday night, Newcastle Falcons went down 24-27 at home to Toulon who finished one log point above Newcastle who are this pool's wooden-spoonists.

♦ Saracens are also assured of their place but will do battle with Glasgow Warriors with a first place in Pool 3 still to be fought for on Saturday.

Exeter, one (very difficult!) match away from becoming the first team to advance to the knock-outs after losing their first three matches, must face Munster to do so. Johann van Graan’s team is on an 11-match European run and are obvious favourites to finish first in Pool 2.

Scarlets are out of the play-offs after their loss to Ulster last weekend, but could have the satisfaction of ending Racing 92’s 100% record at Paris La Défense Arena.  

Ulster Rugby are away to Leicester Tigers and need to win to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2012.

In Sunday’s matches, an away-win for Leinster can guarantee progress from Pool 1 in their match against Wasps, while Toulouse host Bath and will have their fingers crossed for a Leinster defeat.

♦  In the Challenge Cup there are six placed still open in this weekend’s matches, with only pool winners Clermont Auvergne and Worcester Warriors already assured of places in the knock-out stages.

Two-time tournament winners, Clermont, who are also guaranteed a home quarter-final, travel to Wales where they face the Dragons. A bonus point win would make them only the second club after the Ospreys to earn a maximum haul of 30 match points in the pool stage.

Sale Sharks and Connacht are level on match points at the top of Pool 3 as they head into the final round. Sale will be at home against Perpignan, whilst Connacht play Bordeaux-Bègles on Saturday.

Northampton Saints are targeting one of the three places for best runners-up and need a bonus-point win over Saracens tomorrow evening.

Both Italian clubs, Zebre and Benetton, need to win this weekend and will also hope that results elsewhere go in their favour. Zebre need a repeat win against Pool 4 leaders La with second-placed Bristol Bears hosting Enisei-STM.

Benetton Rugby, a single point behind Pool 5 leaders Harlequins, are away to Grenoble and Quins travel to Agen.