Round six of European action is nearly upon us, and it is set to be a thrilling weekend of action. Some matters have been clarified since we last tried to demystify the situation, but the competition is still wide open. Only five of the eight qualifiers have been decided for the Champions Cup quarter finals, with no-one yet securing a home tie.
Resurgent French and English teams
The last decade saw the tournament dominated by just three clubs: Leinster, Saracens and Toulon. With Toulon competing in the Challenge Cup and Saracens somewhat distracted by domestic issues, it was increasingly likely that we would see different names competing for the title.
Of course, Leinster have made an assertive and intimidating start to their European campaign. They are likely to finish as number one seeds with near maximum points from their six games.
Elsewhere, Exeter Chiefs have had their best ever European campaign and have the chance to claim a home quarter final. French teams Racing 92 and Toulouse are also unbeaten in the group stage so far, whilst Clermont Auvergne have also qualified with a game to spare.
Who will qualify for the Champions Cup quarter finals?
As it stands, you’d probably have better luck playing online slots than correctly predicting the eight quarter finalists. There are so many permutations, with all matches able to affect the final standings. Beyond the teams already listed, there are still seven teams competing for the remaining three qualification spots.
In recent years Saracens have mainly been the sole flag-bearer for England in the latter stages. However this year, all the other teams from last year’s Premiership top four have stepped up to the plate.
— Premiership Rugby (@LWOS_PremRugby) January 13, 2020
Saracens themselves need to win at home to Racing 92 in order to qualify, but they can only get an away Champions Cup quarter final at the most. Gloucester and Northampton both have trips to France to overcome to get through, and it seems unlikely that both will make it. But again, it would be foolish to rule this out completely.
Champions Cup proving its worth
In recent years since the Champions Cup ‘relaunch, there has been debate about whether the number of teams need to be cut further. Due to dead rubbers and issues of weakened teams being fielded, there was some merit to this argument.
However on this year’s showing, with over half the teams still involved in Champions Cup quarter final progression, the tournament is still in good health.
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