European Rugby Champions Cup: Round 6 in focus
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 16/01/20 12:12pm
The final week of European Cup pool stage action is upon us, with several teams still in the hunt for quarter-final places....
Top spot in four of the five pools is already decided, and so we know that Leinster, Exeter, Racing 92 and Toulouse will be in the last eight, while Clermont will be there too, though they have yet to secure top spot in their pool.
But there are a host of clubs still seeking to lock down the final three quarter-final places ahead of what should be a compelling weekend of Champions Cup rugby...
In Pool 1, last season's beaten finalists Leinster are already guaranteed of top spot and of a quarter-final place before the final round of fixtures, sitting on 24 points - the most in the tournament so far.
They travel to Italy to face Benetton, while Premiership-side Northampton are in action in the other pool clash and they will hope to join Leinster in the last eight.
Saints travel to France to play Lyon, where a victory will in all likelihood clinch them a quarter place too. Northampton currently sit on 14 points, and a victory (or bonus-point win) will get them to 18 or 19 points.
Then, it will come down to how the other pools do, and in particular how Gloucester, Saracens and Ulster get on, with the best three runners-up from the five pools going through. Saints have a good shot if they win though.
Pool 1 fixtures
|Saturday||Benetton vs Leinster, 1pm|
|Saturday||Lyon vs Northampton, 1pm|
In Pool 2, Exeter Chiefs, like Leinster, are already secured of top spot and a quarter-final, sitting on 22 points.
They end their pool campaign at home to La Rochelle on Saturday, while Glasgow, sat in second, maintain outside hopes of clinching one of the runners-up spots.
The Warriors sit only on 12 points, the lowest of all five pools and must travel to face Sale Sharks, so even a victory would leave them waiting and hoping on other results.
Chances are the Chiefs will be the only ones to progress from this pool, with Glasgow needing two of Northampton, Saracens and Gloucester to lose.
Pool 2 fixtures
|Saturday||Exeter vs La Rochelle, 5.30pm|
|Saturday||Sale Sharks vs Glasgow Warriors, 5.30pm|
Pool 3 has been the most competitive in terms of its top two, with it the only pool left where the top spot is yet to be decided for sure.
Clermont sit top at the moment on 20 points before they head to Harlequins on Saturday, while Ulster sit second on 17 ahead of hosting Bath.
If Ulster win, they are guaranteed of a quarter-final place irrespective of whether they top the pool or not.
The chances are both Clermont and Ulster will progress to the last eight, but who will clinch top and a likely home quarter-final which could prove crucial come April?
Pool 3 fixtures
|Saturday||Harlequins vs Clermont, 3.15pm|
|Saturday||Ulster vs Bath, 3.15pm|
This year's group of death was reserved for Pool 4, with three perennial semi-finalists in Saracens, Munster and Racing 92 drawn together.
After some highly competitive encounters between the trio, Racing sit on 22 points, and guaranteed of top spot and a quarter slot.
With that in mind, the Parisians need not send their strongest squad to face defending champions Saracens on Sunday, which could play right into the hands of the Londoners at Allianz Park.
Sarries sit on 14 points and will be aiming for a bonus-point win to likely progress into the quarter-finals.
Munster face Ospreys in Limerick and so will likely finish on 16 points, but the European road is ended for them bar a miracle across three pools. A highly unusual feeling for the men in red.
Pool 4 fixtures
|Sunday||Saracens vs Racing 92, 1pm|
|Sunday||Munster vs Ospreys, 1pm|
The last of the pools this year is a similar story to the rest, with one standout side in Toulouse: 22 points and five wins from five sees them guaranteed of top spot and a quarter-final place ahead of facing Gloucester at home on Sunday.
Glos sit second on 14 points, but need a win in Toulouse to be in with a shout of joining them in the last eight. They then must see how they compare up against Saints and Saracens - providing all win.
Montpellier host Connacht in the other final day clash in Pool 5 in a dead-rubber.
Pool 5 fixtures
|Sunday||Toulouse vs Gloucester, 3.15pm|
|Sunday||Montpellier vs Connacht, 3.15pm|