*Ulster and Munster already through to Heineken Quarter-Finals
*Leinster 1 match away from qualifying for Quarters
*Connacht have chance to qualify for Amlin (Heineken B) Quarters
*Ulster now concentrating on getting home quarter-final
Well, it was another great weekend for the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup. All 4 teams won their matches and have improved their chances of proceeding further in the tournament
Ulster and Munster are already through to the quarter-final stages, with Ulster having the chance of a home quarter-final. Leinster still have to win their last pool game while Connacht have a chance of qualifying for the Amlin.
Ulster have had a great run in the Heineken Cup so far this season, they’re the only team that remain undefeated in the Heineken and have won all their pool games so far. Ulster have a very tough game, away at Leicester this Saturday, but if they manage to retain their winning streak they will achieve a home quarter-final, possibly even as the no.1 qualifier, meaning they’ll face the 8th ranked qualifier, doubling their chances of proceeding to the semi-final.
Ulster beat Montpellier last weekend (27-16) to cement their place in the quarter-final. Montpellier actually put out a 2nd-string side, wanting to concentrate on the Top14 but they still put up quite a fight, making Ulster work very hard for the win and denying them a try-bonus point.
Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson had a great game, which will help his chances of getting a game for Ireland at out-half. With Jonny Sexton on work overload and Ian Madigan not getting the games for Leinster, Ireland will need to have back-up at no.10 and they have that with Jackson.
Ulster now face Leicester, at Leicester’s home ground, which is one of the most feared home grounds in rugby. Leicester have also qualified for the quarter-final stages (they have 20 points) and are battling Ulster for a home quarter-final.
Ulster beat Leicester at Ravenhill at the start of the season, 22-16 (which remains Leicester’s only loss so far in this season’s Heineken).
Munster won a tough match against Gloucester (20-7) away last Saturday, to book themselves into the Heineken quarter-finals. They now have pole position in Pool 6, with 18 points and no one close to overthrowing them as pool leaders. 2nd placed Edinburgh have only 12 points, which means that even if Edinburgh were to win next week, and Munster lose, Munster will still remain pool leader.
Munster will now face Edinburgh in the final match of their pool (6), to be played this Sunday, at Munster’s home ground, Thomond. Edinburgh won the clash the last time the 2 teams played, 29-23. If Edinburgh win they will have a chance to qualify for the Amlin quarter-finals.
Leinster are top of Pool 1 with 17 points, but are only 4 pts ahead of Northampton, so they’re not guaranteed a place in the quarter-final yet, or as pool leaders. Norhampton still have a chance of topping the pool if they managed to beat Castres and take all the points going.
Leinster have a game against Opsreys this Friday in Wales. Both teams have had only 5 days to recover as they both played matches last Sunday (12th) and will face each other on the 17th. If Leinster win they will qualify for the Heineken as pool leaders, but they are unlikely to get a home quarter-final.
Connacht have had their best season in the Heineken, the highlight being their great win over Toulouse. They also had a close loss to Saracens and they also managed to thump Zebre. This Saturday they travel away to face Saracens.
If Connacht manage to beat Saracens it will give them the 2nd-place spot in Pool 3, qualifying them for the Amlin Challenge Cup (for the 1st time). Saracens are a strong side, though, and they still have a chance to qualify for the Heineken quarters so they will do everything to win this game. Great weekend of Heineken Cup rugby to look forward to!