Monday 21 August 2017

Neil Francis explains how Leinster's 'disgraceful' defeat to Scarlets could seriously affect their Champions Cup hopes

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Leinster are still reeling from last Friday's shock loss to the Scarlets at the RDS but the full affect of that defeat may not be felt until the draw for the Champions Cup pool draw, according to Neil Francis.

Leinster skipper Isa Nacewa admitted that the province would 'cop a lot of sh**e' this week but Francis fears it won't truly hit the fan until June 8 when Leo Cullen's men learn their pool stage opponents in Europe.

The Scarlets defeat, which Francis described as 'simply disgraceful', will mean that Leinster will be the third seeds from the Guinness PRO12 and a potential pool of death beckons.

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Francis outlined why the province will await the draw next month with considerable trepidation despite making it to the semi-finals this season.

"In losing their semi-final Leinster have lost the chance of becoming the PRO12 No 1 seed in the Champions Cup. Leinster will be the No 3 seed when the balls come out of the bowl on June 8. The losing semi-finalist gets their seeding on how high they finished in the regular-season standings. Leinster finished second after slowing up on the finish line and Munster stormed past them. Ospreys only finished fourth so out of the two beaten semi-finalists Leinster are the No 3 seeds," he said.

"Now some of you might think  that the Exeter Chiefs’ win over the hated Saracens was a victory for small-town community-based rugby who hold traditional grass-root values – and it was. Yet another upset on a weekend of upsets. The issue here is that Saracens – a beaten semi-finalist who placed third in the Aviva Premiership, will be a third seed from their domestic competition.

"Racing, after spending most of the pre-Christmas season in the relegation zone, miraculously managed to beat Montpelier at the weekend. They play Leinster’s conquerors Clermont in the semi-finals. Toulon travel to runaway leaders and surprise packages La Rochelle. If Toulon lose to La Rochelle in the semi-final they will be – you guessed it – third seed in the draw from their domestic league.

As Leinster can't be drawn against another Irish province and third seeds can be drawn together in the same pool, there is a strong likelihood that Leinster will be landed with a problematic group.

"There are certain things that must be observed in the draw. No Irish team or Welsh team can play each other in the pool stages. So that has to be provided for – but the bottom line here is that Leinster could end up in a pool with Saracens, Toulon and possibly Benetton. They certainly won’t get a draw as easy as Castres, Northampton and Montpelier again," he added.

"Leinster have been lucky with the draw in the last six or seven years – not this year."

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