Rugby | 1 week ago
Here's what each province needs to reach the Champions Cup knock-out stages
Two sides well placed

If Munster and Leinster can secure victories this weekend, they will seal spots in the Champions Cup knock-out stages. They will be well on their way to securing home quarter final berths too.

Ulster and Connacht have good chances of reaching the last eight also, but they will need to get something from their respective away dates in Exeter and Toulouse.

With two games to go, two Irish provinces - Munster and Leinster - are currently in the top eight standings. Saracens and Clermont have the highest points but as many as 15 teams are still in with an chance of securing a home quarter-final.

Here is what your province has to do to get that coveted home QF spot. We will start with the relatively straightforward ones.

Munster

Beat Glasgow in Scotstoun and Munster are pretty much there, barring Glasgow getting try-scoring bonus points in defeat [round five] and victory over Leicester [round six].

Munster sit on 16 points and face a Warriors team buoyed by their double victory over Racing 92 in December. Rassie Erasmus' side have won 11 from 12 games [including Maori All Blacks] since October and can secure a place in the quarters by beating the Scots by a point and keeping their try-count down.

After that, an already eliminated Racing head to Thomond Park and Munster will be targeting bonus point victories to ensure a home quarter final. Even if Munster lose, a bonus point win over Racing is likely to put them through.

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Leinster

Leo Cullen's side look well set in Pool 4, on 16 points, and will definitely reach the quarter finals by defeating nearest rivals Montpellier at the RDS on Friday night.

Leinster have Castres away in the final round so they will be eager to get the job done against a Montpellier side currently third in the Top 14. Leinster will be realistically targeting finishing the pool with 24 or 25 points, which would be enough to secure a home QF. Most likely, that would be in the Aviva Stadium.

Connacht

Zebre are up next for Pat Lam's side, on Saturday afternoon, and getting bonus point win is definitely the priority. Lam will correctly urge his players to secure the win first but getting the full five points from the hapless Italians would leave Connacht on 18 points going into the final game.

Connacht must assume that Wasps [Toulouse at home and Zebre away] will win their final two games so getting something out of that Toulouse game could prove decisive.

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The westerners beat the French outfit at the Stade Ernest Wallon in 2013 and replicating that would see them top the pool but still unlikely to get a home quarter final. Even if Connacht were to fall in France, securing a losing bonus point could see them pip Toulouse to second.

Ulster

Les Kiss' men are in Exeter for the last fixture of this weekend's rugby action. By then, their fate may be somewhat clearer. Clermont look to have Pool 5 in the bag so Ulster would be forgiven for wanting them to do a number on Bordeaux.

First up though is getting that win over Exeter [third in the Aviva Premiership] at Sandy Park. Ulster are currently on 9 points but Exeter are further adrift and even unlikely to reach the knock-out stages with two handsome wins. Ulster's electric win over Clermont, last month, has given them hope.

Two Ulster wins will give them an outside chance of getting into the knock-out stages. Win in bonus point style and the odds improve.

On this week's GAA Hour we chat to returning Armagh star Jamie Clarke, discuss the art of goalkeeping with Andy McEntee and stick a fork in Oisín McConville's steak and chips. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.

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Munster Rugby, Leinster Rugby, Connacht Rugby, Champions Cup, Ulster Rugby