The Champions Cup last 16 ties have been decided, and so have the potential routes to the final for Ireland’s four provinces.
Despite a weak pool stage, mostly the fault of Covid, but also the structure of the Champions Cup, the knock out fixtures look strong, particularly in the second half of the draw.
It is this half where all of the Irish sides lie, meaning there will likely be more inter-pro derbies in latter stages, following on from Leinster and Connacht’s meeting in the last 16.
We take a look at the permutations for the four sides, and try and deduce their probable routes to the final.
The current favourites for the Champions Cup title, and likely to be too much for any of the Irish provinces in their bids to make a final.
If they are to go all the way, the two-legged clash with Connacht will be their easiest enroute, with Leicester their likely opponents in the quarters, and a potential clash with holders Toulouse in the semis or a derby with Munster or Ulster.
In the final it is hard to look past a meeting with Racing 92. While Leinster have struggled against big packs in the last three years of the competition, their ability to learn from their mistakes, and improvements to their pack such as the continued rise of Andrew Porter and Josh Van Der Flier and the signing of Jason Jenkins, have them rightfully installed as the bookies' favourites.
The hardest one to call. However, one suspects that Exeter might have more than one eye on the Premiership this season, handing a slight advantage to the province.
Munster's form this season has been erratic and hard to judge. The Champions Cup games against Castres were tight wins, but were they up against a side who didn’t care about the competition by playing second stringers, or were they playing a well organised team designed to be tough to break down?
If they were to make the final they would likely have to go through Exeter, Toulouse, and Leinster. Making the semis would be a respectable achievement and a step forward for the province.
Prediction: Quarterfinal exit
Much like Munster in last year's Champions Cup, Covid has played its part and meant that they have been handed a cruel draw despite winning all their pool stage games.
There is hope for Ulster however, as they look a stronger side than last season with Toulouse looking more beatable.
If they were to get through to the quarters, an easier fixture against Munster or Exeter awaits, but Toulouse should have too much class.
Prediction: Last 16 exit to TOulouse
The fact that Connacht finished in 5th place in their Pool B despite only one win, shows the flaws of the current Champions Cup structure and the effects of Covid. But, to their credit, they have performed well in all their games thus far, with their failure to close out games being their major issue.
A two-legged series against Leinster will be a step too far for them, although they have a habit of raising their game for this fixture that has had added needle in recent years.
There is no shame in losing to the current Leinster team, and the likelihood is that both sides will contribute to what will surely be two entertaining games between two attack minded sides.
Prediction: Last 16 exit to Leinster