Rugby

Permutations For Irish Provinces Heading Into Decisive Champions Cup Weekend

Permutations For Irish Provinces Heading Into Decisive Champions Cup Weekend

All four of the Irish provinces have been fantastic in Europe so far this season. They've all played some sensational rugby and each team have given their fanbase the belief that this year could be the year. The Champions Cup has changed format a few times since starting in 1995 but this year they have the pool system. In each pool there's twelve teams with eight teams in each going through to the knockouts. Therefore, if whoever finishes top of Pool A faces whoever is eighth in Pool B, second faces seventh and so on. With this there are many permutations heading into the last round of matches for the Irish provinces so here's what they need to do.

Connacht

Connacht are very unfortunate not to already be through to the knockouts. They have been great in each of their three matches, thrashing Stade Francais 36-9 and they gave English Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers some of their toughest games of the season in their back to back matches. The Tigers have only lost one game all season but they needed a last ditch try to get a win in the Sportsground on the weekend.

However because Connacht have earned four bonus points (two try and two losing) they sit in a very good sixth place in Pool B and should be going through to the knockouts. On Sunday, they travel to Paris to play Stade Francais. A bonus point win in their last Pool B match against Stade Francais will give them 13 points and they could jump up to third if results go their way. In a interesting twist Connacht could end up facing fellow province Leinster in the round of 16 as both sides occupy that 3rd-6th area in their pools and if results align we could be seeing a two legged Interpro derby in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup. Castres's match away to Harlequins Friday night will be very important for Connacht's chances of reaching the next round.

Leinster

Advertisement

Leinster have every right to feel hard done by this year in the Champions Cup. They had their second round match against Montpellier cancelled by the EPCR because of the covid outbreak in their squad and thus they were handed a 28-0 defeat. However when French or English sides had covid outbreaks they were still allowed play their matches, which left Head Coach Leo Cullen deeply frustrated.

But when they've been on the pitch Leinster have been phenomenal. They started off their campaign with a 45-20 win against Bath where they didn't have to get out of third gear. Then they followed that up last weekend when they smashed Montpellier 89-7 at the RDS in the third largest margin of victory in the Champions Cup's history. This has left them in fourth place in Pool A on 10 points. To go through to the next round they just have to beat Bath at the Rec next week. They could jump up places as well if any of Ulster, La Rochelle and Racing lose and Leinster pick up a bonus point win.

Munster

Heading into their Champions Cup opener against Wasps not many would've thought Munster would be in the position they are now. With over 40 players and staff being left stranded out in South Africa it would be fair to say that Munster's preparations heading into that match weren't up to the usual spec. But the young Munster side ended up winning away at Wasps and since then they've had two narrow, grinding victories against Castres to give them qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.

Advertisement

They sit in third spot but with a bonus point win against Wasps Sunday and Leicester and Harlequins defeats, Munster can get first spot where they could face Montpellier or Glasgow. If they stay in third they would face Sale Sharks or Clermont. Munster have one of the strongest defence is the competition so no matter who they come up against they'll have a good chance of going through.

Ulster

Unlike Leinster, Ulster haven't faced any disruption to their European campaign but like Leinster, the Ulstermen have shone every time they've played. They had a memorable win away in Clermont and they followed that up with two good wins against Northampton Saints to mean that they've already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.

They still have things to play for coming into the last round of matches as if Ulster better Racing 92's result they'll finish top of Pool A and will face eighth place in Pool B, which at the moment would be Wasps. With an exciting, fearless and young squad, could this be Ulster's year?

See Also: The Fascinating Journeys Of The 2012 Ireland's U20 Rugby Team

The Intriguing Story Of The 2012 Ireland U20s

Jonathan Browne

You may also like