Saturday 24 March 2018

Race to qualify for quarter-finals

MUNSTER and Leinster are the only two teams to have qualified for the knockout stages so far.

As things stand, with one round of pool games to be played, the top eight are respective pool leaders Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Toulouse, Saracens, Edinburgh and second-placed Cardiff and Clermont.

That line-up won't persist next weekend, given the way the fixtures in round six fall.

Munster's inability to score tries or secure bonus points is likely to harm their chances of earning home advantage for the quarter-finals unless they beat Northampton.

Ulster's predicament is similar: a win in what is the tie of the weekend at Clermont will erase any doubts about qualification.

Next weekend will see the permutations worked out on the spot, with the six pool winners winning their places in the quarter-finals and the runners-up scrapping for the right to join them.

The pool winners will be ranked from one to six in order of their finishing points total, while the top two runners-up will be ranked seven and eight. The top four seeds will secure home advantage in the quarter-finals.

If any two sides finish level then their bad behaviour could come back to haunt them. If the sides cannot be separated by points difference or tries scored, then their sendings off and suspensions will be totted up. Failing that, it's a coin toss.

If Ulster and Munster can get bonus points in defeat, here's how we think the quarter-finals might line up -- Leinster v Ulster, Toulouse v Edinburgh, Saracens v Clermont, Cardiff v Munster.

Irish Independent

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