All to play for in Europe
As Rounds Five and Six of the European Cup approach, thoughts are turning to the accumulation of ERC European ranking points.
The likelihood of arch-European Cup rivals Clermont and Leinster meeting again in the pool stage of the 2013/14 tournament has greatly lessened following this season’s four rounds of matches.
As the tension-packed Rounds Five and Six of the tournament approach, thoughts are turning not just to qualification for the knockout stages of both the European Cup and European Challenge Cup, but also to the accumulation of valuable ERC European ranking points.
With Clermont currently on course to top Pool Five and to secure a minimum of four ranking points as a pool winner, the French club looks set to move up from Tier Two to Tier One of the rankings for the first time where they could join reigning champions, Leinster.
Clermont and Leinster have clashed a total of six times in the European Cup since 2010, but if both clubs find themselves in Tier One of the rankings for next June’s crucial pool draw, then they will be certain to be kept apart in the pool stage of the 2013/14 tournament.
Other European Cup clubs in the frame to make significant moves in the rankings include last season’s defeated finalists and current Pool Four leaders, Ulster, while Toulon could also book themselves a place in Tier One next season if they continue their impressive unbeaten run and top Pool Six.
Cardiff Blues, who are bottom of Pool Six, have a battle on their hands to retain their Tier One status, and if the Welsh club’s fortunes in the remaining pool stage matches don’t improve, they could well drop out of the top tier for next season’s pool draw.
Along with the four ranking points on offer for a European Cup pool winner, a pool runner-up secures three points, with two for third place and one for fourth. The tournament champions can earn a maximum of 11 points in a season with up to nine points available for the beaten finalists.
The five pool winners in the European Challenge Cup earn two ranking points with the champions banking a total of six points, and a protracted run in the tournament by current Pool Five leaders, Stade Francais, could see them progress into Tier One.
The three European Cup clubs who qualify for the European Challenge Cup quarterfinals can also add to the three points gained as pool runners-up.
The ERC ranking system has been designed to reward consistent performances at the highest level in European competitions over a four-year period.
ERC European ranking points available each season:
4th in pool = 1
3rd in pool = 2
2nd in pool = 3
Pool winner = 4
Quarterfinalist + 1 = 4/5*
Semifinalist + 2 = 6/7*
Finalist + 2 = 8/9*
Winner + 2 = 10/11*
*Pool winner earns four points to runner-up’s three points
European Challenge Cup
(Points available in the knockout stages only)
European Challenge Cup clubs:
Quarterfinalist = 2
Semifinalist + 2 = 4
Finalist + 1 = 5
Winner + 1 = 6
Clubs qualified from European Cup:
Quarterfinalist = 3 (second-place finish in European Cup pool)
Semifinalist + 1 = 4
Finalist + 1 = 5
Winner + 1 = 6