Heineken Cup field takes shape
May 19, 2008
Four former Heineken Cup champions - Munster, Toulouse, Leicester Tigers and London Wasps - along with two-times finalists Stade Francais Paris have all booked their places in next season's Heineken Cup and will take up five of the six Tier 1 sides for the draw for the composition of the six Pools of four teams each for the 2008 / 2009 Heineken Cup.
Under the new ERC European Ranking system and for the purposes of the Pool draw, the 24 teams that qualify for the tournament will be divided into four Tiers of six teams each based on their European performances over the past four seasons. The teams from each Tier level will be kept apart in the Pools.
While 2006 winners Munster and treble winners Toulouse will clash at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday for the 13th title, double winners Leicester Tigers came with an 11th hour run to join the 2004 and 2007 champions London Wasps in the top tier for next season.
But, with four Rounds of the French Top 14 still to be played, fellow potential Tier 1 club Biarritz Olympique still have some work to do to book their place in the 14th season of European club rugby's premier competition.
The full seven French places - ASM Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse and Stade Français Paris are safely through - the two Italian spots and the final English qualifier are still in the balance.
With 22 matches played, the Top 14 positions and points are:
1) ASM Clermont Auvergne - 85 points
In Italy the end of the regular Super 10 season on Saturday saw Rugby Calvisano, Benetton Treviso, Viadana and Petrarca Rugby qualify for the semi-finals with Rugby Rovigo and Overmach Rugby Parma confirmed European Challenge Cup qualifiers.
The two Heineken Cup qualifiers are scheduled to be settled on 31 May on the completion of the Italian semi-finals.
In England, Harlequins - who finished sixth in the Premiership - have an anxious wait for the outcome of the European Challenge Cup final between Bath Rugby asnd Worcester Warriors on Sunday, 25 May at Kingsholm, Gloucester.
If Bath Rugby win then Harlequins qualify for the Heineken Cup but if Worcester Warriors win then they qualify for the Heineken Cup ahead of Harlequins.
HEINEKEN CUP QUALIFIERS 2008/2009
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September