Last-chance saloon for some Champions Cup clubs

Last-chance saloon for some Champions Cup clubs

For some clubs in the Investec Champions Cup, this weekend’s Round 3 is the last-chance saloon already. For others, it’s a crucial match in the push for a home tie in the Round of 16. For others still, it’s the attempt to avoid the last-chance saloon next week.

It’s a pivotal round of matches in the Investec Champions Cup. Here’s what’s facing the teams in terms of outcomes…  

Pool 1  

Union Bordeaux-Bègles are well-placed to get qualification sewn up a week early with a home tie on Sunday against a Saracens side looking rather out of sorts and with injury problems in the scrum. For the visitors, it’s a little more complicated. While a loss is not the end of the road, it would leave the chances of a home Round of 16 tie extremely slim. 

A day earlier, Connacht Rugby face a must-win tie at Lyon, for whom a victory would almost certainly mean qualification. Lose and the Galwegians are all but out.  

Bristol Bears host the Vodacom Bulls with both having won one and lost one, so a defeat on Saturday for either could be a mortal blow to qualification hopes and a victory would be just as significant a boost to those hopes.  

Pool 2  

Stade Toulousain and Bath Rugby can both look to get qualification sorted a week early, with the latter perhaps best-placed to do so with a home tie on Sunday against Racing 92, who are very much facing a win-or-bust scenario at The Rec.  

Stade Toulousain’s task on Saturday is more awkward: a trip to the ferocity of both the elements and the crowd at Ulster Rugby, for whom a home win is paramount to qualification chances.  

Harlequins travel to Cardiff Rugby on Saturday knowing that a win would at least see them through to the next round and set them up nicely for the final weekend, whereas the Welsh side are in last-chance territory this weekend.  

Pool 3  

Having fought out an epic Gallagher Premiership encounter last weekend, Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs both have a chance to capitalise on their 100 per cent win records thus far and qualify a week early with home wins.  

On Friday Northampton Saints host spirited competition debutants Aviron Bayonnais, who will face a tense final weekend if they lose, and the same applies to Exeter Chiefs’ guests on Saturday, Glasgow Warriors, as well as the losers of the RC Toulon-Munster Rugby clash in France on the same day.  

The bottom four in the pool are all within two points of each other and should results go to form this weekend, the final weekend of this pool will be worth monitoring for the tension.  

Pool 4  

Leinster Rugby can wrap up qualification and all but eliminate Stade Français Paris with a win in Dublin on Saturday, when a home victory against Sale Sharks is crucial for DHL Stormers’ chances. 

The South African side face an awkwardly short turnaround before the trip to Paris next week and would like to notch that all-important second win, while the same scenario applies to Sale Sharks, albeit the trip back from Cape Town is to a home tie against champions Stade Rochelais.  

The champions’ task on Sunday is simple: beat Leicester Tigers or surrender their crown. But that will be easier said than done, as the English club could wrap up qualification with a win and will fight tooth and nail to get it.   

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