Leinster and Munster guaranteed home ties in reformatted Champions Cup

Quarter-final draws will effectively be open meaning Irish teams could face each other

Leinster will be guaranteed a home draw in the Champions Cup last-16. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Leinster will be guaranteed a home draw in the Champions Cup last-16. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Leinster and Munster are two of only five teams who will be guaranteed home advantage in the draw for the round of 16 in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, which will take place on Tuesday, March 9th.

This is their reward for winning both of their pool matches on the field of play without any Covid-19 related cancellations and the ensuing award of 28-0 bonus point wins, all of which heightens the importance of Leinster’s wins away to Montpellier and at home to Northampton, along with Munster’s Pool B victories against Harlequins at Thomond Park and that epic comeback win away to Clermont.

The other three teams to be assured of a home tie in the last 16 are Racing, Wasps and Bordeaux-Begles. As a result, Leinster and Munster cannot be drawn against any of that trio, or the Scarlets, but can be paired against any of the other 10 qualifiers, namely La Rochelle, Edinburgh, Toulon, Sale, Lyon, Toulouse, Clermont, Bristol, Exeter or Gloucester.

The draw for the last 16, to be held on the weekend of April 2nd/3rd/4th, does permit teams from the same pool to face each other but teams from the same league cannot be paired against one another.

This follows almost six weeks of on-off negotiations between representatives from all the leagues, with the French clubs understood to be particularly keen on avoiding all-Top 14 clashes in the round of 16, itself an agreed compromise solution to the abandonment of the pool stages with just two of the four rounds completed.

It was also felt that teams who had been awarded one of their two wins off the field of play due to coronavirus-enforced cancellations did not merit being rewarded with a guaranteed home tie.

The round of 16 replaces the projected first legs of the quarter-finals, which will now be one-off ties to be held a week later, on the weekend of April 9th/10th/11th.

Hence, the draw for the quarter-finals of both the Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup will also be held on Tuesday March 9th, and these will effectively be ‘open’ draws, wherein clubs from the same league can be drawn against one another.

As it was also felt that the rankings had been skewed by Covid-19 related factors, nor will there be any seedings for the quarter-finals onwards, meaning that whichever last 16 pairing is drawn out of the hat first will have the carrot of a home tie in the last eight. In other words, were they to progress, conceivably Leinster and Munster could be drawn against each other.

Similar revised formats apply to the Challenge Cup where the eight highest-ranked clubs from the preliminary stages of that tournament at the time of the suspension of the tournament, and the eight clubs which have not qualified for the knockout stage of Heineken Champions Cup, will compete in the Round of 16.

Likewise the three clubs who had won both matches on the field of play have been assured of home advantage in the round of 16, namely London Irish, Ospreys and Leicester Tigers.

Ulster and Connacht are among the other 13 teams who will go into the draw and therefore, provided they avoid London Irish and Leicester, would then have an even money chance of a home draw. They cannot meet each other or Ospreys, Cardiff, Zebre, Benetton, Dragons or Glasgow, while the other qualifiers whom they could be drawn against are Agen, Newcastle, Northampton, Bath, Montpellier or Harlequins.

Were they to advance to the quarter-finals, Ulster and Connacht could meet then.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.