There are just two pool rounds left in the Heineken Champions Cup after the culmination of the crucial back-to-back games which took place in December.
In the last edition of our power rankings after Round 2, we predicted that the back-to-back games would play a major role in deciding who would reach the final eight and it proved to be the case as Leinster have already guaranteed their place in the quarter-finals with two bonus-point wins over the Northampton Saints.
Champions Cup Power Rankings
1. Leinster – 19 points [Qualified]
Leinster secured a quarter-final thanks to back-to-back bonus-point wins over the Northampton Saints over the last two weekends.
The eastern province are cruising this season and have yet to taste defeat in all competitions.
Their formidable form and depth suggests it would take something truly special to stop them claiming that fifth star.
Remaining Fixtures: Lyon (H), Benetton (A)
2. Exeter Chiefs – 19 points
A bonus-point win over Sale Sharks at Sandy Park put the Chiefs on 19 points, 10 points clear of second-placed Glasgow Warriors.
Even if they lose to the Warriors at Scotstoun next time out, a win over bottom-placed La Rochelle at home will see them through.
This could be the Chiefs’ year.
Remaining Fixtures: Glasgow Warriors (A), La Rochelle (H)
3. Toulouse – 18 points
Back-to-back wins over French rivals Montpellier sees Toulouse in the driving seat in Pool 5. Gloucester, who lie in second, can technically catch them but it’s very unlikely.
Up next for the French side is a trip to Galway to take on Connacht before they welcome Gloucester to the Stade Ernest Wallon.
Remaining Fixtures: Connacht (A), Gloucester (H)
4. Ulster – 17 points
Dan McFarland’s side just need three more points to guarantee a spot in the quarter-finals after their back-to-back games against Harlequins yielded two wins and the maintaining over their 100% record in Europe.
Ulster face a tricky trip to Clermont who are breathing down their necks on 16 points before they welcome lowly Bath to Belfast in the last round.
Remaining Fixtures: Clermont (A), Bath (H)
5. Racing 92 – 17 points
The Parisian side did what many expected them to do by securing two bonus-point wins in the back-to-back games with the Ospreys. On 17 points, they lead Pool 4 with Munster and Saracens six and seven points behind, respectively.
This pool looks set to go down to the wire and Racing 92 welcome Munster to Paris in the next round in what will be a pivotal tie.
Remaining Fixtures: Munster (H), Saracens (A).
6. Clermont Auvergne – 16 points
Clermont are just one point behind Ulster in Pool 3 and they welcome the northern province to their home patch in the next round. A win here would put the French side in the driving seat to clinch top spot and automatic qualification to the last eight.
Remaining Fixtures: Ulster (H), Harlequins (A).
7. Munster – 11 points
The southern province, despite putting it up to Saracens for long periods, came away with nothing from their trip to Allianz Park and they now face the daunting prospect of having to get a win against Racing 92 in Paris.
They will be targetting all five points at home to Ospreys but that result will be insignificant if they fail to beat the Parisian side.
Remaining Fixtures: Racing 92 (A), Ospreys (H)
8. Saracens – 10 points
The London side’s quality showed in the last quarter against Munster as the Vunipola brothers came to the fore to grind out the win.
This keeps Saracens’ interest in the competition alive and with a trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on the Ospreys up next, Mark McCall’s side will likely be in contention come the final round.
Remaining Fixtures: Ospreys (A), Racing 92 (H)
Still In The Hunt
Northampton Saints (9 points)/Glasgow Warriors (9 points)/Gloucester (9 points)
The above three sides still have an opportunity to qualify especially due to the fact that only two of Racing 92, Munster and Saracens can qualify from Pool 4.
Three of the highest-ranked second-placed sides will qualify for the knockout stages and with Pool 3 (Clermont or Ulster) and Pool 4 (Racing 92/Munster/Saracens) almost guaranteeing two of those three spots, there will be one left up for grabs.