Down to the wire
Wed, 16 Jan 2013 11:34
Harlequins, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster and Toulon have all qualified for the quarterfinals of the European Cup, but who will join them in the last eight?
Unbeaten English champions Harlequins are the only ones so far guaranteed home advantage in the quarterfinals, so with plenty to play for in Round Six here is the state of the Pools going into the final weekend of group games.
A victory for Saracens over Edinburgh would see them confirmed as pool winners. Munster have to defeat Racing Metro at Thomond Park and hope that Saracens lose to Edinburgh in order to top the pool. If both Munster and Saracens win, then Munster need results elsewhere to go in their favour if they're to emerge as one of the two best runners-up. Racing Metro are still mathematically in the equation, but they would need a bonus-point win in Limerick as well a particular set of results elsewhere to secure a best runners-up spot.
It is all about the mouth-watering Leicester Tigers v Toulouse showdown at Welford Road on Sunday. A win for either of the former champions would settle the pool. Defeat for Toulouse could still see them in contention for a best runners-up place; defeat for Leicester could leave them in contention for Challenge Cup qualification at best.
Win, lose or draw at Biarritz on Friday, Harlequins are already guaranteed a home quarterfinal and vying with Clermont and Toulon for the top ranking of the eight qualifiers. A bonus-point win would see them confirmed as number one seeds. A win for Biarritz could put them in contention both for a best runner-up place and for Challenge Cup qualification.
Already sure of a spot in the last eight, Ulster go to Castres Olympique in search of a first European Cup win on French soil. Victory could ensure a home quarterfinal depending on results elsewhere while defeat would see them on the road in the knockout stage. Northampton Saints travel to Glasgow Warriors in contention for a best runners-up place and for qualification for the Challenge Cup. Meanwhile, Castres would need a lot of favourable results to book a best runners-up spot, but if they defeat Ulster, the Challenge Cup is on the radar.
Even a losing bonus point at Scarlets would almost certainly guarantee Clermont Auvergne a home quarterfinal at fortress Stade Marcel Michelin. Leinster go to Exeter Chiefs chasing a best runners-up place. A win is the minimum requirement for the reigning champions, while five points will probably be needed along with favourable results elsewhere.
A losing bonus point at Montpellier will be enough to secure Toulon a home quarterfinal, but a home win for Montpellier in Saturday's all-French clash will vastly change the landscape for the best runners-up places - maybe the key game of the round.
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