Leinster hold Connacht's Heineken Cup fate in their hands
Published 29/04/2013 | 10:55
Heineken Cup rugby will return to the Sportsgrounds for a third successive year if Leinster claim the Amlin Challenge Cup at the RDS on May 17.
Connacht have won notable victories over Biarritz and Harlequins in their opening forays in Europe's top club competition but their qualification once again depends on the fortunes of Leinster.
Of the four teams contesting the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup finals, Leinster, Clermont and Toulon have already qualified for next season's Heineken Cup by finishing in the upper echelons of their domestic leagues.
Stade Francais, however, must win the Amlin Challenge Cup if they are to return to the Heineken Cup for the 2013/14 campaign.
That is their only route into the top tournament, while beaten Challenge Cup semi-finalists Perpignan know that their place is secure if Stade Francais lose.
They are the seventh-ranked team in the Top 14 Championship and will gain the extra place secured through a French winners of the Heineken Cup provided Stade do not claim it with a Challenge Cup triumph.
A Leinster victory, therefore, will not only make Perpignan's day, but also secure a fourth ticket into the Heineken Cup for fellow province Connacht for the third season in-a-row.
The winners of both the Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup get an automatic entry into the Heineken Cup for themselves, or for a team in their country, unless their country already has their maximum permitted quota.
If there are two French winners, then Stade Francais will duly take the seventh place and ERC will go to their rankings for the highest placed team that has not already qualified for the Heineken Cup.
In this case a French double will mean Heineken Cup rugby for London Wasps.