WE BROUGHT YOU the permutations and likely scenarios in last week’s Heineken Cup Explainer but, with one round of fixtures left, the picture has become somewhat clearer.
Four sides have already confirmed their quarter-final places, with home ties secured by Clermont Auvergne and Harlequins.
Ulster [currently on 19 points] are also through but the best scenario to secure a home quarter final would be to beat Castres away this afternoon.
Saracens should easily wrap up the top position in Pool 1 by beating Edinburgh at home while Toulon, qualifiers already, can get a home fixture by defeating Montpellier away.
The winners of the Leicester Tigers and Toulouse match-up at Welford Road will also advance.
That leaves six sides, including Leinster and Munster, battling it out for quarter final berths as two of the best runners-up.
Lucky number 20
First off, and harshly, we will dismiss the hopes of Northampton Saints, who face Glasgow away, whilst Biarritz are out of the running after losing to Harlequins last night.
Of all the teams currently chasing second place, Montpellier [18 points] look to have the best chance of advancing.
The have beaten Cardiff Blues and Sale Sharks at Stade Yves du Manoir and drew with Leinster on home turf last season. They have also won their seven Top14 fixtures at home this season.
The hope for the chasing pack is that unbeaten Toulon  need a win to pull clear of Ulster and claim a home quarter-final. Prediction: Montpellier win [finish on 22 points].
Toulouse  and Leicester  meet in Pool 2 on Sunday – the second-last match of the weekend – and, by that stage, will know what they need to do to stay alive in the competition. Prediction: Leicester win [Tigers 20; Toulouse 19].
If Montpelier lose with a bonus against Toulon, and Toulouse do likewise against the Tigers, because of tries scored it means Munster and Leinster need a win bonus to get to stay ahead of them.
Munster, with a fervent Thomond Park behind them, are capable of getting their bonus point win over Racing Metro. Prediction: Munster bonus point win [20 points].
Make no mistake about the enormity of Leinster’s task – they are facing an Exeter side that have beaten Harlequins and Saracens at home this season.
Cian Healy fights with Exeter’s Tom Hayes for the ball. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
Leinster were in scintillating form for 60 minutes last weekend – they will need to go for the full 80 this Saturday if they are to secure a bonus point win. Prediction: Leinster bonus point win [20 points].
So TheScore.ie [although people may disown me for this one] is predicting Saracens, Leicester and Montpellier to take three of the four remaining quarter-final slots — the final shoot-out will be between Leinster and Munster.
The number one criteria in deciding who goes through to the quarter-finals would be the amount of tries scored in all pool matches. If both teams have scored the same amount of tries then the team with the best points aggregate goes through.
As it stands, Munster are on nine tries and a points difference of +37. Leinster have eight tries and are +17.
If a miracle at Sandy Park becomes a parting of the waves, Leinster could notch up five tries but the points difference remains in Munster’s favour.
The other thing standing for Rob Penney’s men is the fact that they will play their final pool match on Sunday afternoon, almost 17 hours after Leinster’s result becomes clear.
If, somehow, both Leinster and Munster were still level come Sunday evening, players getting sent off or retrospectively suspended [Ronan O'Gara, we're looking at you] is the next deciding criteria before a coin is tossed in the air and the whole world goes mad.
-- first published earlier this week