Euro quarter-finals confirmed
January 22, 2012
Munster wing Simon Zebo celebrates a try in his side's rout of Northampton © Getty Images
After six rounds of brutal, brilliant Pool action the Heineken Cup quarter-finals have been confirmed, with some familiar faces leading the way into the knockout stages.
Munster secured top seeding in the last eight and a priceless home tie at Thomond Park with Saturday's 51-36 hammering of Northampton. The two-time champions will face Ulster in a titanic all-Irish tie. While Ulster fell short away to Clermont Auvergne - losing 19-15 - they did enough to bag one of the two spots on offer to the best runners-up.
The other belongs to Cardiff Blues, who are set to face reigning champions Leinster in the quarters. The Blues scraped past Racing Metro in the final round - winning 36-30 - but their lack of a bonus-point gave Edinburgh top spot in Pool 2 and home advantage against Toulouse.
Leinster are seeded second, having completed the Pool stages unbeaten with a routine 25-3 win over Montpellier. They will be a tough proposition at the RDS or Lansdowne Road, leaving Cardiff staring down the barrel.
Toulouse, whose Pool campaign has not been brimming with quality, will be wary of a free-flowing Edinburgh. The four-time champions have qualified on 18 points, despite Friday's 34-24 loss to Gloucester.
Clermont Auvergne, meanwhile, will also be on their travels. Saracens needed only a point from Sunday's trip to Treviso, but the English champions managed all four in a 26-20 win to set up a Vicarage Road meeting with Les Jaunards.
Following the final round, the draw for the semi-finals confirmed home country advantage for the winners of the Saracens-Clermont and Munster-Ulster ties.
The other main sub-plot to consider is qualification for the latter stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup. Harlequins will get a chance to defend the trophy they won in Cardiff last season, after Friday's 9-8 defeat at Connacht ended their Heineken Cup hopes.
The Scarlets will also drop into the second tier tournament - thanks to Northampton's loss against Munster and their gritty 16-13 win at Castres. Biarritz kept their nose in with a win over the Ospreys in the final round, and they complete the line-up for the last eight.
Heineken Cup quarter-final seedings:
1. Munster (Q - 25 points)
Heineken Cup quarter-finals: (To be played April 6/7/8)
Munster v Ulster
Heineken Cup semi-finals: (To be played April 27/28/29)
Saracens/Clermont v Leinster/Cardiff Blues
Final: Twickenham Stadium, Saturday, May 19 (5.00)
Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final seedings:
1. Stade Francais (Q - 29 points)
Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals: (To be played April 5/6/7/8)
Stade Francais v Exeter
Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals: (To be played April 27/28/29)
Toulon/Harlequins v Stade Francais/Exeter
Final: Twickenham Stoop, Friday, May 18 (8.00)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14