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Heineken Cup – Final Qualification spots up for grabs

Rarely does the final round of the Heineken Cup Pool stages pass without drama, and while this year things look simple it would come as no surprise if there were a few twists and turns along the way.

With six of the eight quarter finalists already decided it seems as though the main fighting this weekend will be over top spot in the Pools with two qualifiers, and over home quarter finals amongst the whole eight.

Leinster are expected to beat the Ospreys and claim the Pool One qualification berth and Saracens are expected to do the job at home against Connacht and secure the final runner up qualification slot, or even top spot in Pool 3 should the unthinkable happen and Toulouse fail to secure their victory at Zebre.

As stated above though, it might seem straightforward and practically signed, sealed, and delivered, however this is the Heineken Cup, this tournament is renowned for its dramatic finishes.

Leinster’s job might seem a simple on, win and they qualify (in fact even a draw would take them through, as would a loss with a losing bonus and try scoring bonus), however the Ospreys are no slouches and are very capable of getting a result at the RDS. With Saints at home to a Castres side who are not likely to be at their most interested, this group suddenly looks very alive.

Likewise Pool 3, where Saracens need a positive result at home to Connacht if they are to secure that final qualification berth. On paper it is a simple task, Connacht are traditionally one of the whipping boys of European rugby, particularly when not in their intimidating Galway home.

However the Irishmen have shown this in recent seasons that they are actually a very tough outfit, and their win away in Toulouse earlier in this campaign ought to silence anyone who thinks that Saturday will be an easy affair for Saracens. Indeed a victory for Connacht could see them sneak into the final qualification berth so they will certainly not be rolling over.

Should Saracens lose then Northampton, Cardiff, Harlequins, and Edinburgh will all be ready to pounce on that final spot, along with Connacht.

Then of course there is the excitement in Pool Five. Both Leicester and Ulster have already qualified but their match at Welford Road will decide who tops the Pool and claims a home quarter final, and therefore a dramatically increased chance of going all the way in this tournament.

Things may look pretty certain going into this final round of the Pools, but if past experience is anything to go by, there are a few twists and turns to be had yet.

Heineken Cup Fixtures & Tables (Fixture predictions in bold):

Pool One

Friday – Leinster v Ospreys 20.00 (Red Button)

Friday – Northampton Saints v Castres 20.00 (Sky Sports 1)

Pool One

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Leinster

5

4

0

1

1

17

2

Northampton Saints

5

3

0

2

1

13

3

Castres

5

2

0

3

1

9

4

Ospreys

5

1

0

4

1

5

Pool Two

Saturday – Cardiff Blues v Exeter Chiefs, 15.40

Saturday – Glasgow v Toulon, 15.40 (Sky Sports 2)

Pool Two

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Toulon (Q)

5

4

0

1

4

20

2

Cardiff Blues

5

3

0

2

1

13

3

Glasgow Warriors

5

2

0

3

2

10

4

Exeter Chiefs

5

1

0

4

4

8

Pool Three

Saturday – Saracens v Connacht, 13.35 (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday – Zebre v Toulouse, 13.35 (Red Button)

Pool Three

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Toulouse (q)

5

4

0

1

3

19

2

Saracens

5

3

0

2

3

15

3

Connacht

5

3

0

2

1

13

4

Zebre

5

0

0

5

0

0

Pool Four

Sunday – Clermont Auvergne v Racing Metro 92, 15.00 (Sky Sports 2)

Sunday – Scarlets v Harlequins, 15.00 (Red Button)

Pool Four

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Clermont Auvergne (Q)

5

4

0

1

3

19

2

Harlequins

5

2

0

3

4

12

3

Scarlets

5

2

1

2

0

10

4

Racing Metro 92

5

1

1

3

1

7

Pool Five

Saturday – Leicester v Ulster, 18.00 (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday – Montpellier v Treviso, 18.00

Pool Five

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Ulster (q)

5

5

0

0

2

22

2

Leicester Tigers (q)

5

4

0

1

4

20

3

Montpellier

5

1

0

4

2

6

4

Treviso

5

0

0

5

0

0

Pool Six

Sunday – Munster v Edinburgh, 12.45 (Sky Sports 2)

Sunday – Perpignan v Gloucester, 12.45 (Red Button)

Pool Six

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

Bonus

Points

1

Munster (Q)

5

4

0

1

2

18

2

Edinburgh

5

3

0

2

0

12

3

Gloucester

5

2

0

3

1

9

4

Perpignan

5

1

0

4

3

7

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