The European Rugby Champions Cup reaches an exciting conclusion this weekend with everything to play for as the Ospreys face Clermont Auvergne still in the quarter-final hunt.
Last Saturday’s 15-15 draw with reigning champions Saracens at the Liberty Stadium means that the Ospreys go into the final round of fixtures second in Pool 2, just three points behind the French side who lost for the first time last weekend, going down 34-21 away to Northampton Saints.
The Ospreys know that a win at Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday can secure their progress to the last eight, but Saracens also remain contention sitting in third place, a further two points behind.
Round 6 Fixtures
If keeping it simple in such a superbly congested Round 6 is difficult, the straightforward message for Ulster (17 points) who travel to Wasps (12 points), and for La Rochelle (16 points) who host Harlequins, is that both need to win. What is certain, is that a victory for Ulster at the Ricoh would guarantee them a place in the last eight come what may. Remember too that Wasps are not out of it … which all suggests that Sunday afternoon might be a bit of a rollercoaster.
This pool always had the whiff of death about it and now we have the TOP 14 champions and the tournament holders fighting for survival. Clermont (18 points), who have been hit by a host of injuries, need to beat a resurgent Ospreys (15 points) at Marcel-Michelin, while a home win for Saracens (13 points) might not be enough. And even if Northampton Saints are gone from the qualification race, expect them to come out firing at Allianz Park.
Impressive Leinster have already booked a home quarter-final, and a losing bonus point in Montpellier will see them ranked No 1 going into the knockout stage which statistically boosts their chances of a semi-final in Ireland. Montpellier (13 points) are still in the hunt for a best runner-up spot as are the Exeter Chiefs (14 points) who need a big win in Glasgow.
Another pool going right down to the wire. If Munster (16 points) get the better of Castres (12 points) at Thomond Park, then they will win the pool irrespective of what happens between Leicester and Racing 92 (15 points) at Welford Road as the Irish province have a superior points difference from the head-to-heads with Racing. A win for the TOP 14 side in Leicester, and they could well grab a quarter-final place.
A packed house at Parc y Scarlets is guaranteed on Saturday for the shoot-out between Scarlets (17 points) and RC Toulon (18 points). The winner takes all, and the loser will be left sweating on the possibility of a best runner-up place. Even if Bath (13 points) hit top form against Benetton in Treviso, a bonus point victory may still not be enough.
Qualification for the quarter-finals
The five pool winners and the three best-placed runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals, and will be decided as follows:
(a) The pool winner will be the club with the highest number of match points in each pool. The best-placed runners-up will be the three clubs with the highest number of match points out of the five clubs that finish second in their respective pools. For the quarter-finals, the pool winners will be ranked 1 to 5 and the best-placed runners-up ranked 6th, 7th and 8th by the number of match points earned.
(b) If two clubs in the same pool are equal on match points at the conclusion of the pool stage, then their ranking will be determined by the results of the two matches played between the relevant clubs as follows:
(i) the club with the greater number of match points from the two matches; or
(ii) if equal, the club with the best aggregate points difference from the two matches; or
(iii) if equal, the club that scored the most tries in the two matches.
(c) If ranking remains unresolved and/or if clubs have not played each other previously in the pool stage, qualification/ranking will be determined as follows:
(i) the best aggregate points difference from the pool stage; or
(ii) if equal, the number of tries scored in the pool stage; or
(iii) if equal, the club with the fewest number of players suspended under Disciplinary Rules in the pool stage; or
(iv) if unresolved, by drawing lots.
The clubs ranked 1 to 4 will have home advantage in the quarter-finals as follows:
QF 1: Club 1 v Club 8 QF 2: Club 4 v Club 5
QF 3: Club 3 v Club 6 QF 4: Club 2 v Club 7
ASM Clermont Auvergne v Ospreys
Saturday, 20 January, Kick-off: 16:15, Stade Marcel-Michelin
Referee: JP Doyle (Eng), Assistant Ref: Anthony Woodthorpe (Eng), Assistant Ref: Simon Mcconnell (Eng), TMO: Stuart Terheege (Eng), Citing Commissioner: Andy Blyth (Eng)
- This will be the fourth time ASM Clermont Auvergne have hosted the Ospreys, winning on all three previous occasions and outscoring the Welsh region 95-50 in those games.
- Clermont have won all nine of their home games against Welsh opposition in Europe’s top flight, and only the Ospreys, in November 2015, have managed to finish within 20 points of Clermont during that run (34-29).
- The Ospreys won their last away game but haven’t won consecutive matches on the road since the 2007/08 pool stage when they beat Ulster before winning away in France in Round 6 (v Bourgoin).
- The Welsh side have the best tackle success rate in the Champions Cup this season, completing 92%, and missing an average of just 13 per game.
- Morgan Parra is the top points scorer (62) heading into the final round of the pool stage.