Thursday 19 July 2018

Barnes to ref final as Ulster to profit from Leinster win

Referee Wayne Barnes. Photo: Getty Images
Referee Wayne Barnes. Photo: Getty Images

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Wayne Barnes will referee the Champions Cup final between Leinster and Racing 92 in Bilbao on Saturday week.

The experienced English official, who last refereed Europe's showpiece club game in 2010, will be assisted by Dubliner JP Doyle, who referees out of England, and Tom Foley.

Given this is his 70th European game at the whistle, Barnes (above) will be well known to both squads while Racing are unlikely to kick up a fuss about Doyle's background after he refereed their semi-final win over Munster well.

A Leinster win in the final could open the door to Ulster securing an unlikely path to the competition next season, avoiding a play-off along the way.

Tournament organisers yesterday clarified the scenario for awarding the 20th place in next year's Champions Cup.

If the Irish province win and all four Challenge Cup semi-finalists qualify automatically for the main event through their leagues, Ulster will get an automatic spot for next season's tournament.

Currently, three of the four Challenge Cup finalists are in and Pau have a chance at finishing in the Top 14's top six this weekend.

Currently one place away on points difference, they'll need to beat Toulon and hope results elsewhere go their way.

If they do it means a Leinster win would see Ulster gain automatic entry and Benetton handed a home play-off against Ospreys to join them.

That's because the northern province have the highest points total of the two play-off teams and although they finished lower in the conference rankings, the Italians also have a higher points total than the Welsh region.

EPCR rules governing selection of the 20th Champions Cup place:

1. Champions Cup winner, if not already qualified.

2. Challenge Cup winner, if not already qualified.

3. Challenge Cup losing finalist, if not already qualified.

4. Play-off match between losing Challenge Cup semi-finalists, if not already qualified.

5. Highest-ranked non-qualified club by virtue of league position from same league as the Champions Cup winner.

Irish Independent

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