HEC-xy Boy

A momentous weekend ahead in European rugby – the last weekend of the regular season in France, England and the Magners. Since most play-off places are pretty much nailed down, lets talk instead about who will get into next season’s European Cup instead.

Qualifying automatically are 6 teams from England and France, 3 from Ireland and Wales and 2 from Scotland and Italy. The winners of this years HEC and AC will qualify, or earn their country an extra spot if they are already qualified through their league. However, if Saints and Quins do the business, England only gets 1 extra place, so this 24th place passes on to the highest ranked side who didn’t previously qualify.

So, who is in so far?

England: Leicester, Saracens, Gloucester, Northampton and Swashbuckling Bath
France: Toulouse, Racing Metro, and almost certainly Clermont and Castres
Ireland: Munster, Leinster, Ulster
Wales: Cardiff, Ospreys, Scarlets
Plus the usual Scottish and Italian patsies.

The final English place is between Irish and Quins. Irish are away to Leicester and Quins at home to Sarries. If Quins get 4 more match points than Irish, they get the last place. Both Leicester and Sarries have qualified with home semi-finals, so its hard to know what teams they will put out. Irish firmly in the box seat here, but we have a little fancy for Quins.

The French situation is more complex. Toulon (70 points), Biarritz (68), Montpellier (67) and Bayonne (67) are all in the mix. The big game is Montpellier-Toulon. The other 2 play already-relegated La Rochelle and Bourgoin, so you would have to expect 5 points each, meaning Toulon need to win and Montpellier need a bonus point win. Toulon have a bit of momentum at present, so we are going for Biarritz and Toulon to make it.

However, the really interesting question is if one of the other 2 make it – Toulon this year came in as bottom seeds, but not only did they qualify, the competition within the pool ensured no other team came through with them. If Bayonne or (especially) Montpellier make it, they are a very tough draw, and don’t forget Bayonne are taking out the chequebook this summer.

And finally, the “bonus” places for trophy winners:
If Leinster and Harlequins win, Connacht and Quins/Irish qualify.
If Leinster and Stade win, Connacht and Stade qualify.
If Saints and Stade win, Quins/Irish and Stade qualify.
If Saints and Quins win, Quins/Irish and Perpignan qualify, as Perpignan are the highest ranked team not already qualified.

Note: up to 22 of this seasons 24 participants can get back in – is the HEC becoming a self-perpetuating European rugby elite?


1 Comment

  1. Results in!In England, Irish qualify despite shipping 5 tries in defeat to Leicester as Quins fall 16-13 to Sarries.A real nail-biter in France – in the end 4th and 8th were seperated by 2 points, Montpeller and Biarritz claiming the final 2 places. The highlight of the day came in Montpellier, where the home team, marshalled as stylishly as ever by Francois Trinh-Duc, ran in 3 tries (one from former Ulster hero Timmy Naguca) in a 24-3 comprehensive victory over Toulon.

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