There is everything to play for on the final weekend of Heineken Cup Pool matches with five quarter-final places still to be determined in what promises to be a classic Round 6.
Players and fans alike will be pumping adrenalin right across Europe this week as no fewer than 10 teams continue their chase for a place alongside the reigning champions Leicester Tigers, the inaugural champions Toulouse and Leinster Lions in the last eight.
Those three teams have already clinched their places in the knock-out phase having guaranteed top spot in their respective Pools with one round still to play. Toulouse (Pool 5) and Leinster Lions (Pool 4) are the only two teams with 100% records after Round 5, while Leicester Tigers (Pool 1) are unbeaten having drawn their opening game at Neath.
If these three teams go on to win their final Pool matches this weekend - Leicester Tigers host Neath at Welford Road on Saturday, while Leinster Lions travel to Bristol Shoguns and Toulouse travel to London Irish on Sunday - then they will claim three of the four home matches in the quarter-finals.
The six Pool winners will be joined in the quarter-finals by the two best runners-up. In the event of teams - be it two or three - in the same Pool being level on match points the Pool winners and rankings will be determined after taking into account THE RESULTS OF ONLY THOSE MATCHES BETWEEN THE TIED TEAMS (i. match points; ii. tries scored; iii. points difference).
The two best placed runners-up will be determined by the following criteria - i. Match Points; ii. Tries scored in all Pool matches; iii. Points difference in all Pool matches; iv. Fewest number of players sent off in Pool matches; v. The toss of a coin. The eight qualifiers will be ranked by the above criteria and the draw for the quarter-finals will be:
TEAM 1 v TEAM 8
TEAM 2 v TEAM 7
TEAM 3 v TEAM 6
TEAM 4 v TEAM 5
As it stands, only teams who reach a minimum of eight points can qualify for the quarter-finals. There are three teams currently on eight points - Gloucester in Pool 2, Llanelli in Pool 3 and Northampton Saints in Pool 6.
There are seven other teams who could reach eight points - Beziers in Pool 1 (playing Neath tonight, 13 January), Munster and Perpignan in Pool 2, Bourgoin in Pool 3, Bristol Shoguns in Pool 4 and both Biarritz Olympique and Ulster in Pool 6.
POOL 2: If Gloucester avoid defeat away to Munster they will win the Pool.
Gloucester (3 matches to date) Tries - 9 For - 91 Against - 63 ( + 28)
Munster (3 matches to date)Tries - 5 For - 54 Against - 79 ( - 25)
Perpignan (4 matches played) Tries - 11 For - 91 Against - 94 ( - 3)
POOL 3: If Llanelli avoid defeat at Glasgow Rugby they will win the Pool.
In the two matches between Bourgoin and Llanelli, Bourgoin have scored two more tries (8-6) and are + 1 on points difference.
POOL 6: If Northampton Saints avoid defeat away to Ulster they will win the Pool.
Northampton (3 matches to date) Tries - 6 For - 69 Against 46 ( + 23)
Biarritz (4 matches played) Tries - 6 For - 71 Against 70 ( +1)
Ulster (3 matches to date) Tries - 3 For - 42 Against 66 ( - 24)