Highest ranked team to host URC Grand Final as playoff format confirmed

Announcement heightens importance of final three rounds of regular-season games

Tournament organisers have confirmed that the highest ranked team will host the 2021-22 United Rugby Championship Grand Final on Saturday, June 18th.

There had been speculation that the final would be held in South Africa but in keeping with previous editions of this competition between 2010 and 2014 and again in 2020 and 2021, home advantage for the decider will be merit based.

This announcement will heighten the importance for teams in the URC playoff hunt to pick up every available point over the remaining 28 regular season fixtures. Among those games are 12 clashes between northern hemisphere and South African sides, 14 head-to-heads between teams currently in playoff contention in addition to eight derby matches.

That said, Leinster are best placed to secure top place and with it the guarantee of a home final should they also progress through a quarter-final and semi-final at home, as they lead the table by 10 points with three rounds to play.

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In other words, six points from their final three games away to the South African duo of the Sharks, whom they play in Durban on Saturday, and the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday week, and against Munster at the Aviva Stadium on May 21st would assure Leo Cullen’s team of first place.

Martin Anayi, URC chief executive , said: "With some thrilling rugby ahead of us the time is right to confirm our plans for the first-ever United Rugby Championship Grand Final. For this campaign, it is important to understand how our teams and their fans are returning to normality after so long away from stadia and that our job is to deliver the best URC Grand Final we can in these circumstances.

“The reward of the highest-ranked team hosting the URC Grand Final adds even more to the competitive edge over the closing rounds of the league that will set us up for an incredible playoffs which now showcases our best eight teams in a battle to reach the URC Grand Final.”

Meanwhile, the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final between Munster and reigning champions Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, May 7th will be refereed by England's Luke Pearce, while Mathieu Raynal of France has been appointed for the much-anticipated showdown between Leicester Tigers and Leinster at Welford Road later on the same day.

Karl Dickson of England will be in charge of the quarter-final between last season's finalists, La Rochelle, and Montpellier at Stade Marcel-Deflandre also on Saturday, May 7th and the following day Ireland's Andrew Brace will referee the contest between Racing 92 and Sale Sharks at Paris La Défense Arena.

The United Rugby Championship playoffs

– The final eight teams from the league table qualify for the quarter-final stage

– Teams are then ranked one to eight with the top four teams earning home games for the Final Eight (quarter-final) stage

– The two highest-ranked winners from the Final Eight will play their Final Four fixtures (semi-finals) at home

– The two winners from the Final Four will qualify for the United Rugby Championship Final with the highest-ranked team hosting the game