Leinster seal home date as rival provinces keep fate in own hands
Leinster's latest statement of intent saw them become the first side to guarantee a home quarter-final and while Munster and Ulster still have work to do to join them, their destiny is in their own hands.
A point in Montpellier would ensure that Leinster finish as number one seeds, which would mean that a potential semi-final clash would also be played in Dublin.
Racing coach Laurent Labit defended his side's decision to take the three points rather than go for the bonus point at the death against Munster, but it may yet come back to haunt them.
Ahead of their trip to Thomond Park this weekend, Castres annihilated Leicester at home, which complicates matters from Munster's point of view. The French side retain a slight hope of advancing and thus are likely to field a full-strength team.
A bonus-point win would seal top spot for the Reds, regardless of how Racing get on in Leicester.
When you consider that potential outcome, you begin to understand just how much was at stake for Racing when Maxime Machenaud fired over a 78th-minute penalty with his side already a point in front.
A bonus-point win for Munster would bring their points tally to 21, but they may need a favour from the likes of Wasps or Ospreys for a home quarter-final.
Results could hardly have gone much better for Ulster, who know that a five-pointer against Wasps will see them win their pool. That, however, is by no means a foregone conclusion and La Rochelle will be primed to take advantage when they host Harlequins.
The Top 14 leaders will be fancied to win with a bonus point, which would mean that if Ulster win without picking up the extra point, La Rochelle would emerge as pool winners because they hold the advantage in the head-to-head between the teams.
Les Kiss will know that a win over Wasps would see them advance as one of the best three runners-up, while a bonus-point defeat may still be enough if other results go their way.
Despite their injury problems, Clermont Auvergne will be expected to beat the Ospreys at home, which would see them return to the Stade Marcel Michelin for their quarter-final. Nothing more than a win will keep alive Ospreys' hopes.
Clermont must go one better than Toulon, who are sweating over the citing commissioner's take on an unsavoury incident involving Mathieu Bastareaud. The France centre has landed himself in hot water after he appeared to unleash a homophobic slur in Toulon's win over Treviso.
If Scarlets beat Toulon at home, they will win the pool. Exeter, Montpellier, Bath and defending champions Saracens haven't given up hope of playing in the knockout stages yet.
Pool leaders: Leinster 23 points (qualified), Clermont 18, Toulon 18, Ulster 17, Munster 16.
Chasing pack: Scarlets 17, La Rochelle 16, Castres 15, Ospreys 15, Racing 15, Exeter 14, Saracens 13, Montpellier 13, Bath 13, Wasps 12.
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