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European Challenge Cup qualification guide

Leicester Tigers go to Pau on Saturday with a place in the quarter-finals already secured. But what do we need to know about the rest of the line-up for the knockout stages?

With 22 points from five rounds, Tigers will finish top of Pool 5 regardless of results this weekend, but a number of other permutations are still to be settled, including who takes home advantage in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Alongside Tigers, quarter-final places have also already been claimed by Toulon, Bordeaux-Begles and Bristol Bears, who are all unbeaten so far. But none of the seedings have been confirmed yet.

One of the pool winners will have an away draw in the knockout stages and it is Friday evening’s action in Pool 1 which will have the biggest impact on the format of the draw.

Guide to Round 6

Pool 1: Dragons (on 15 points) will reach the quarter-finals with a bonus-point win over visitors Einisei.

The game between Worcester Warriors (15 points) and Castres (18) at Sixways is effectively a winner-takes-all contest.

If Worcester win, Tigers will be at home in the quarter-finals. If Castres win, they will move on to 22 points, or 23 with a bonus-point win. Tigers have 22 in Pool 5 before this weekend. If teams are level on match points, ranking is determined by points difference (scored for v scored against). If still equal, it goes on tries scored. Castres have a points difference of plus 50, Tigers are plus 93 so far; and have scored 17 tries to 21 by Tigers.

Pool 2: Toulon (23 points) are at home to Bayonne. Scarlets (14) need a win away to London Irish to have any chance of going further in the tournament as a best runner-up.

Pool 3: Bordeaux-Begles (22) are away to Wasps (11). At Murrayfield, if Edinburgh (16) beat Agen, who are without a point from five rounds, they will qualify as a best runner-up and will be ranked No6 in the quarter-finals.

Pool 4: Bristol (24) go to Zebre with a home quarter-final already booked and will be focused on a highest possible ranking in the last eight. Only Bristol can qualify from this pool.

Pool 5: Tigers (22) go to Pau (15) needing 2 points to guarantee a home quarter-final regardless of other results. A win for Pau (15) will put them in the shake-up for a best runner-up place. Cardiff Blues (13) are also still in contention as they host Calvisano.  

What happens next?

Pool winners are ranked 1-5 in the quarter-finals and the best runners-up 6-8 by reference to the number of match points earned.

If two clubs in the same pool are equal on match points, ranking is determined by the results of the matches played between the clubs as follows:
(i) match points from those matches; or
(ii) if equal, best points difference from those matches: or
(iii) if equal, most tries scored in those matches.

If ranking remains unresolved and/or if clubs have not played each other in the pool stage, qualification/ranking is determined as follows:
(i) aggregate points difference from the pool stage; or
(ii) if equal, tries scored in the pool stage; or
(iii) if equal, fewest number of players suspended in the pool stage; or
(iv) if unresolved, by drawing lots.

The clubs ranked 1-4 will have home advantage in the quarter-finals:

QF1: Club 1 v Club 8
QF2: Club 4 v Club 5
QF3: Club 3 v Club 6
QF4: Club 2 v Club 7


The semi-final draw is as follows:

Winner QF1 v Winner QF2

Winner QF3 v Winner QF4

Semi-finals will be played at home venues, with the highest-ranked clubs from the pool stage having home venue advantage in their semi-final:

If the clubs ranked 1 & 4 win QFs, club 1 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 1 & 5 win QFs, club 1 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 8 & 4 win QFs, club 4 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 8 & 5 win QFs, club 5 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 3 & 2 win QFs, club 2 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 3 & 7 win QFs, club 3 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 6 & 2 win QFs, club 2 will have home advantage

If the clubs ranked 6 & 7 win QFs, club 6 will have home advantage

Click here for the Challenge Cup tables.