European Champions Cup: Dramatic final pool weekend

European Champions Cup: Dramatic final pool weekend

The European Champions Cup is set for a dramatic final weekend, with three PRO14 Rugby sides looking to join Irish side Leinster in the last eight.

But while all three have a possible chance to make the playoffs, they will need top-class performances in the final round to leapfrog other sides and claim one of the final three places up for grabs in the competition.

Leinster continue their magnificent run of form and top their pool, having already qualified and are already joined in the last eight by French clubs Toulouse and Racing Metro, as well as English club Exeter Chiefs who have already qualified for the quarter-finals, although this weekend will determine where these sides are seeded for the playoff rounds.

Ulster have possibly the best chance of qualifying, and will face Bath in a game they need to win to qualify for the quarter-finals. While their winning run in Europe was stopped by Clermont-Auvergne last weekend, they have an excellent record against Bath, winning all five European clashes against them, although the last three were by less than five points.

A win for Ulster will see them qualify as either runners up or the top side in Pool 3, depending on the result of the Harlequins v Clermont game on the same day. Ulster have also won 12 of their last 13 games at home and will go into the match high on confidence to try and grab a qualifying place.

The picture looks a lot different for Johann van Graan’s Munster, especially after their late-game collapse to see Racing Metro pull off a bonus point win and take top spot in the Pool four in the process.

Munster aren’t out of Europe just yet, but they need some luck to go their way this weekend, including a win for Racing over Saracens and a bonus point win over the Ospreys at Thomond Park, which will leave them on 16 points, enough to claim a qualifying spot if all of Gloucester, Glasgow and Northampton fail to win this weekend.

Glasgow Warriors put in a brave performance to draw 31-31 with Exeter last weekend and will fancy their chances of making the last eight, but need a win away at Sale Sharks and losses for Northampton and Gloucester to secure their spot in the last eight.

Leinster though, will be looking for a top seeding with an away fixture to Benetton Treviso and will need the win to secure a home quarter-final, as a loss could see the four sides below them overtake them in the standings.

All in all the weekend promises a lot of drama and the three PRO14 sides will need more than just their own performances to get them into the quarters.
 
These teams can still qualify for the quarters –

League points (Points difference)
1 Leinster (Q) 24 (+105)
2 Racing (Q) 22 (+71)
3 Exeter (Q) 22 (+62)
4 Toulouse (Q) 22 (+56)
5 Clermont (q) 20 (+86)
6 Ulster 17 (+15)
7 Saracens 14 (+30)
8 Gloucester 14 (+21)
9 Northampton 14 (-29)
10 Glasgow 12 (-12)
11 Munster 11 (0)
12 La Rochelle 10 (-20)
 
Fixtures –
Saturday

Lyon vs Northampton Saints
Benetton vs Leinster (15:00 Live on SS1)
Ulster vs Bath (17:00 Live on SS1)
Harlequins vs Clermont
Sale Sharks vs Glasgow Warriors (19:25 Live on SS1)
Exeter Chiefs vs La Rochelle.
Sunday
Munster vs Ospreys
Saracens vs Racing Metro (15:00 Live on SS8)
Toulouse vs Gloucester (17:10 Live on SS8)
Montpellier vs Connacht