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Leinster look bound for a trip to France

IT would appear Leinster's ambition to make a home quarter-final hangs on Edinburgh's ability to deny Munster a bonus-point win at Thomond Park and on Glasgow's willingness to turn over champions Toulon at Scotstoun.

Neither would seem to be all that likely.

In other words, Leinster could forever look back on the fall to Northampton Saints at the Aviva Stadium as the one that plunged them into difficulties they could well do without.

For the moment, Leinster look like making another flight to France for the quarter-final, presuming they take care of the Ospreys, at either Toulon, Toulouse or Clermont-Auvergne.

As it stands, Matt O'Connor's men will make their way to Toulouse in April with a renewal that would bring back to mind that stupendous 41-35 quarter-final upset in 2006.

More recently, they know what it takes to beat Vern Cotter's club from that riveting 19-15 victory in the 2012 semi-final at Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux.

The last place they would want to end up in would be Toulon's backyard of choice, probably at the Allianz Riviera Nice, where Leinster hold no history to draw on.


Having said all that, O'Connor's former club Leicester Tigers could throw a spanner in the works by shredding Ulster, the only unbeaten side in the competition.

If the Heineken Cup has delivered two things down the years, it is unpredictability (what about Connacht in Toulouse?) and drama right to the last minute.

The mathematical possibilities make any conclusions nothing more than a fool's errand. It is best to wait, watch and see what happens.

1. ULSTER (22 pts) v Leicester Tigers (20pts), Welford Road, Saturday 6.0.

One of these will win Pool 5 with points over and above what Leinster can muster.

2. TOULON (20) v Glasgow Warriors, Scotstoun, Saturday 3.40.

The champions' inconsistency at Cardiff makes them a crackable nut for Glasgow.

3. TOULOUSE (19) v Zebre, Stadio XXV Aprile, Saturday 1.35.

It is difficult to see anything other than five points for Guy Noves in Italy.

4. CLERMONT-AUVERGNE (19) v Racing Metro, Stade Michelin, Sunday 3.0.

The motivation for the disorganised rabble of Racing is minimal.

5. MUNSTER (18) v Edinburgh, Thomond Park, Sunday 12.45.

Rob Penney's band of men can make the top four if Glasgow can bring Toulon to heel.

6. LEINSTER (17) v The Ospreys, The RDS, Friday 8.0.

Matt O'Connor will have to sweep the Welsh for five points, see Glasgow down Toulon and Edinburgh restrict Munster's try-count to less than five.

7. LEICESTER TIGERS (20) v Ulster, Welford Road, Saturday 6.0.

This East Midlands club has earned a fierce reputation to physically dominate. They can turn the competition on its head.

8. SARACENS (15) v Connacht, Allianz Park, Saturday 1.35.

Mark McCall's players must be heavily favoured to put four tries past the Westerners.