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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 20 September, 2014

Explainer: What your province needs to secure that (home) quarter final

Ulster and Munster are looking for April ties at home while Leinster and Connacht are just hoping.

Connacht's Michael Swift, Leinster's Leo Cullen, Ulster's Johann Muller and Munster's Peter O'Mahony.
Connacht's Michael Swift, Leinster's Leo Cullen, Ulster's Johann Muller and Munster's Peter O'Mahony.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

THE WEEKEND’S HEINEKEN CUP action is now confined to highlight reels and history books, and six clubs have been branded ‘q’ for qualified.

Pool winners Clermont, Toulon and Munster have big Qs while Ulster, Toulouse and Leicester must wait until the dust settles after Round 6 to learn if they are pool winners or not. Pool 1 does not have a qualified team yet. Leinster and Northampton Saints will be seeking wins, against Ospreys and Castres respectively, as the winners spot remains up for grabs.

With another ‘q’ to come from Pool 1, that leaves six teams battling/praying it out this weekend to snare the final quarter final place. Munster and Ulster, meanwhile, will both need victories to secure home draws in the last eight. Here’s what your province needs to do to get that sweet Heineken Cup draw.

Munster

Wins: 4

Points: 18

Round 6: Edinburgh (h)

image

It seems a long time since Munster’s 12 October defeat to Edinburgh in Round 1. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster need a home win over the team that made their Pool 6 life so complicated in the first place. Rob Penney’s men will be hunting the bonus point [for scoring four tries] and have a good chance of claiming it, having achieved a similar feat in last season’s pool stages. That would leave them on 23 points. Their main rivals for home QFs are Toulon, Tolouse and Clermont. All three have eminently winnable fixtures and there is a high likelihood of bonus point wins.

A defeat at home, with or without a bonus point, would mean some travelling in early April.

Ulster

Wins: 5

Points: 22

Round 6: Leicester (a)

The northern province are the best fixed of all the Irish sides and an away win over Leicester, even without a bonus point, would see them through as top qualifiers. Losing to Richard Cockerill’s men would cost them top spot and mean Munster, the French sides and even Leinster could steal in for that home quarter final.

Leinster

Wins: 4

Points 1

Round 6: Ospreys (h)

Leinster go into their Friday clash with Ospreys aware of their need to beat their old rivals in bonus point style. The favourable fixtures for their closest rivals means a BP win may still fall short of the mark.

image

Leinster’s Jordi Murphy is tackled by Castres’ Brice Dulin and Cedric Garcia. INPHO/Billy Stickland

If Leinster were to lose to the Welsh side, Northampton Saints could pip them to top spot in Pool 1. Saints have Castres, who have all but given up on the Heineken Cup, at home so should finish with 18 points. A Leinster defeat with a losing bonus point should still see them sneak top spot as they currently have a favourable [+60] points difference to Saints. That 40-5 win at Franklin’s Gardens may prove crucial yet.

Connacht

Wins: 3

Points: 13

Round 6: Saracens (a)

Pat Lam’s men have the steepest of the four hills to climb. They will need to knock over Saracens at Allianz Park and hope for a bonus point in the process. A win it itself would be a huge achievement and would see Connacht finish on 17 points. They would then be relying on Northampton or Cardiff Blues to achieve no more than a win [a bonus point would see Saints through]. A bonus point win would pull the westerners clear of Saints and Blues.

TheScore.ie last eight prediction [home QF in caps]

  • ULSTER
  • TOULOUSE
  • CLERMONT
  • TOULON
  • Munster
  • Leicester
  • Leinster
  • Saracens

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