ercrugby.com explains the Heineken Cup qualification criteria ahead of the Round 6 this weekend.
With all eight places still up for grabs, and a huge amount of posible qualification scenarios, here are the Key Tournament Rules with regard to quarter-final qualification.
HOW THEY QUALIFY FOR THE QUARTER-FINALS
Four points for a win, two points for a draw (match points). A bonus point will be earned by a team scoring four or more tries and by a team losing by seven or less points. The six Pool winners and two best placed runners-up will qualify for the quarter-finals and will be decided by the following criteria:
(i) the Pool winner will be the Club with the highest number of match points earned in each Pool. The runners-up will be the two second placed Clubs from all six Pools with the next highest number of points. For the quarter-final round, the Pool winners will be ranked 1 - 6 in terms of the number of points earned. The runners-up will be ranked 7 and 8.
CLUBS IN THE SAME POOL
(ii) if two or more Clubs are equal on points and the Clubs are in the same Pool, then qualification / ranking will be based on the matches played between the Clubs concerned:
(a) the Club which has earned the most number of match points from the matches
(b) the Club which has scored the most tries in the matches
(c) the Club with the best aggregate points difference from the matches
CLUBS FROM DIFFERENT POOLS
(iii) if still unresolved, or the teams have not played each other previously in the Pool stage, qualification / ranking will be based on:
(a) the number of tries scored in all Pool matches
(b) aggregate points difference from all Pool matches
(c) the Club with the fewest number of players sent off and / or suspended in all Pool
(d) toss of a coin
The format of the two best runners-up qualifying for the quarter-finals as the No 7 and No 8 ranked teams has been in operation since the 1999 / 2000 season - with bonus points coming into the equation in season 2003 / 2004.
Since then, no team has qualified as a best runner up with less than 19 points although in 2003 / 2004 Celtic Warriors and in 2006 / 2007 the Ospreys both discovered that even 20 points was not sufficient to make the knock-out stages.
The teams (with current names) to qualify as best runners-up have been:
Finals Edition: Listen to the best guide to the European Rugby Cup Finals weekend in Dublin, which sees Leinster Rugby take on Stade Francais Paris at the RDS on Friday night in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final and then ASM Clermont Auvergne tackle Toulon in an all-French affair at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.