Explosive pool stage finale on the cards
Ecstasy and agony are certain to figure in varying amounts this weekend as Europe’s elite clubs ready themselves for an explosive Round 6 in the ultra-competitive Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
Please see attached the club rankings pre-Round 6, as well as pool tables and qualification rules for the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup
With as many as 12 quarter-final places up for grabs across both tournaments, the new formats which see five pool winners and three best runners-up reaching the knockout stages have thrown up a tension-packed a series of games.
With only RC Toulon already through to the last eight, the last throw of the Champions Cup qualification dice begins on Saturday when a crowd of 25,000 is expected at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena for the Pool 2 top-of-the-table clash between Wasps and Leinster Rugby.
In Pool 3, Leicester Tigers will be looking for a big win over Ulster Rugby at Kingspan Stadium to keep their hopes alive of securing a best runners-up spot, while Northampton Saints and Racing Metro 92 are engaged in a Pool 5 showdown at a sold-out Franklin’s Gardens also on Saturday.
On Sunday, the permutations in Pool 4 are seemingly endless with leaders Toulouse travelling to Montpellier and second-placed Bath Rugby hosting Glasgow Warriors at The Rec which also has the ‘Sold out’ sign up.
Finally, all the qualifiers and their rankings, as well as the clubs who have banked a precious home quarter-final, will be revealed when old rivals, ASM Clermont Auvergne and Saracens, go toe-to-toe in Pool 1 at a packed Stade Marcel-Michelin.
Then in order to facilitate advance planning by the clubs who qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, and to map out the route to the London 2015 finals, the semi-final draws for both tournaments will be made directly after the Clermont v Saracens game.
The Champions Cup draw will take place at Stade Marcel-Michelin at approximately 17.15 (UK and Irish time) and will be followed by the draw for the Challenge Cup semi-finals. Both draws will be broadcast live on BT Sport, Sky Sports and France Televisions, and will also be available on epcrugby.com
Also following the conclusion of the pool stages, a longlist for the prestigious EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 award will be announced. Selected by a panel of rugby experts, the longlist for one of the most prized individual accolades in the world game, which was won last season by RC Toulon’s Steffon Armitage, will consist of 15 players who have performed outstandingly during the 2014/15 tournaments to date.
The panel of judges will then have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after EPCR’s finals in London in May.
Click here for the top-10 performers to date in both EPCR tournaments
The European action, which includes the second round of pool games in the Qualifying Competition for the 2015/16 Challenge Cup, gets underway this evening with Gloucester Rugby aiming to secure the No 1 ranking going into the Challenge Cup quarter-finals when they take on Brive in Pool 5 at Stade Amédée Domenech.
Meanwhile, the first of a whole host of Champions Cup Round 6 showdowns kicks off on Saturday with that much-anticipated meeting of Wasps and Leinster.
EPCR European Player of the Year 2015
Judging Panel: Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique), Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports/The Sunday Times), Alan Quinlan (Sky Sports/The Irish Times), Mick Cleary (Rugby Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph), Dimitri Yachvili (beIN Sports)
Previous winners: Ronan O’Gara (Munster Rugby – best player of first 15 years of European club rugby tournaments); Sean O’Brien (Leinster Rugby) 2011; Rob Kearney (Leinster Rugby) 2012; Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon) 2013; Steffon Armitage (RC Toulon) 2014
A shortlist of five players will be announced following the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals (17/18/19 April) and the EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 will be announced after the London finals weekend on 1/2 May.