Connacht keep watch on Irish provinces

Success for Leinster or Munster will secure an extra Irish Heineken Cup place next year

Incoming  Connacht head coach Pat Lam: will be keeping an eye on how Munster and Leinster perform. Photograph: Inpho

Incoming Connacht head coach Pat Lam: will be keeping an eye on how Munster and Leinster perform. Photograph: Inpho

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 06:00

Connacht face Treviso in Italy tomorrow night for their refixed tie with their best finish ever in the RaboDirect Pro12 (eighth) still alive. They are currently in ninth place, two points behind Cardiff.

But the incoming coach Pat Lam, will be keeping an eye on how Munster and Leinster perform. Once again the provinces’ success has a direct influence on what competitions Connacht play in next season.

Since the 2009/’10 season, the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup winners qualify automatically for the following season’s Heineken Cup. Each winner also earns an extra Heineken Cup place for their country over and above the guaranteed allocations.

Guaranteed entries
Currently six clubs from England and France, three for Ireland and Wales, and two from Scotland and Italy have guaranteed entries for next season’s competition. A Heineken Cup win for Munster or a Challenge win for Leinster would give Connacht the additional Irish position in the Heineken Cup draw.

There are still eight clubs involved in the race for the two trophies with Bath and Wasps among others also holding out hopes of qualification.

In addition to helping Connacht secure a back-door entry next season Leinster are also hoping to earn a share of the €6.7 million in ERC meritocracy payments, which will be distributed to the countries of clubs which progressed to the Heineken Cup knockout stage as well as the two that reach the Challenge Cup final.

French clubs, with three Heineken Cup quarter-finalists and two semi-finalists, have earned their country about €2.25 million in meritocracy payments in addition to their share of the ERC’s central distribution for 2012/’13.

Ireland will receive about €1.35 million in addition to their share of central distribution from Ulster’s quarter-final spot and Munster’s progression to the semi-finals.

As it stands, England will earn an additional €1.8 million from three clubs in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and Saracens in the semi-final.

Each place in the Heineken Cup knockout stage will earn a club’s country close to €450,000. There is an additional meritocracy payment of €450,000 to be shared by the nations or nation of the finalists of the Challenge Cup.