Trio battle to advance


Despite good home wins for Ulster and Munster over the weekend, results elsewhere in Europe did not go all that favourably for the Irish provinces. Munster have already ensured their progress to the quarter-finals of the European Cup, but the qualification hopes of the other three provinces all go down to the wire next weekend.

Of these, only Ulster still have their destiny in their own hands. Victory against Edinburgh Reivers in Easter Road on Sunday will guarantee them a place in the quarter-finals.

Leinster's defeat away to Begles/Bordeaux means that the French side have usurped them in second place in Pool A, while Llanelli's surprise victory over group winners Stade Francais has ensured a three-cornered fight for the runners-up spot.

Leinster must beat Llanelli in Donnybrook on Friday night but, given their vastly inferior points differential compared to Begles/Bordeaux, they must also hope that Begles/Bordeaux do not beat Stade Francais on Saturday. If Leinster do qualify, it will probably be as the eighth-ranked side, and so their likely quarter-final destiny would be a trip to Toulouse.

Connacht's goose looks cooked after their surprisingly heavy defeat away to Caerphilly dropped them to fourth place in Pool A of the Shield, behind Perigeux and Caerphilly on points difference.