With one round of Champions Cup action left to play there’s still plenty of uncertainty over which sides will feature in the quarter finals, with as many as 12 of the 20 sides in the competition still a mathematical chance to make the final eight.
Munster (Pool 1), Leinster (Pool 4) and Clermont (Pool 5) have already secured their places by winning their groups, while Saracens can only be overtaken in Pool 3 from a heavy defeat to Toulon.
Wasps are favourites to qualify top of Pool 2 with a game against the worst side in the competition Zebre late on Sunday. The Italian club have conceded an average of 58 points per game this competition. Dai Young’s side will expect to bring home five points, and if they do so they can only be knocked off top spot if Connacht were to get a bonus point win away to Toulouse.
The Toulouse vs. Connacht clash at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday is effectively a knockout match with a slight twist. If Connacht win or draw they will advance, but should Toulouse win the equation gets tricky.
If both sides end up on the same amount of competition points following the result, second place in Pool 2 will be decided by match aggregate which is currently in favour of Connacht four points to one after their 23-21 win in the opening round back in October. If their match aggregate is equal at the end of Sunday’s encounter, points differential will decide which team advances, and if that can’t separate both sides it goes back to who has scored the most tries in the two matches between the teams.
It would be cruel on Connacht if they weren’t to qualify, as they could end up with more competition points than the third best runner up – but because they wouldn’t finish first or second in a group they wouldn’t progress.
Montpellier, Exeter Chiefs and Castres have a chance to make things interesting should they get last round wins. Montpellier host Northampton on Friday night, and a win would put them in contention. A loss and they’re out.
If Montpellier lose, but Castres secure an unlikely bonus point win over table toppers Leinster they too could still qualify.
The do or die proposition also faces Exeter, who are away to Clermont. If all these three sides lose their matches however – it means Toulon and Glasgow Warriors will qualify regardless of their results in the final round.
Toulon arguably have the biggest mountain to climb away should one of the aforementioned teams get a result. The French glamour club are away to defending champions Saracens on Saturday. A losing bonus point for Toulon could be enough however.
Glasgow Warriors may need some form of result as well should any of Montpellier, Exeter or Castres get last round wins. To be safe Gregor Townsend’s side will secure their place with either a win or draw away against Leicester Tigers.
It will go back on points differential if two or more sides from different groups were to finish on equal competition points.
Where all these sides finish from position one to eight is for another day, but by 15:00 UK time on Saturday we should have a clear understanding of the playoff picture, with Toulouse and Connacht left to battle for one quarter final berth on Sunday.
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY