Quest For The Quarters – Where The Irish Sides Stand In The Champions Cup
Irish eyes were certainly smiling after the last batch of Champions Cup ties; for the first time in history, the provinces each won both of their December back-to-back games, setting up a very happy Christmas indeed. This means the chances of seeing all three sides progress to the knockout stages are pretty positive – but nothing’s quite that simple!
With two weekends of action remaining, here’s your guide on what to watch over the coming weeks; berths in the quarter-finals await if our boys can do the business…
With a perfect record so far, Leo Cullen’s charges are in control of Pool 3; in fact, their passage to the quarter-finals could be confirmed with a five-pointer against out-of-sorts Glasgow in the fifth round of games. Sitting pretty with a five-point lead at the head of the group, a home tie and a favourable draw will obviously be high on their list of priorities – and with Montpellier far from out of it yet, the final game in France could be an exciting affair!
The campaign may have started slowly with a draw against Castres, but the Red Army has been steadily marching towards the quarters ever since. Their visit to Paris to lock horns with Racing Metro should decide who tops the group – the two fought a seismic battle in their opening clash in October – but even in the event of defeat, qualification for the knockout stages should still be achievable with a victory on the final day when the eliminated Castres visit Thomond Park. Win both, however, and the home comforts of Limerick should be theirs come the quarter-final – a dream result for Johann van Graan’s men.
La Rochelle’s surprise defeat to Wasps means the Ulstermen’s destiny is in their own hands. Though they currently lie two points off the French pacesetters, wins from their remaining games should send them through – especially if the leaders are sent packing from the Kingspan Stadium without a bonus point in Round 5. That, though, would be but half the battle – and a nerve-wracking appointment against Wasps on the final weekend would be the definition of a grandstand finish!
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