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Connacht hoping Leinster do them a favour

Guinness PRO12 Editor

20 May 2011

National pride won’t be the only reason why Connacht will be hoping Leinster beat Northampton in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Final.

Leinster arrive in Cardiff looking for a second European crown in three years but they won’t be the only Magners League side to benefit should they become continental kings once more.

A Leinster victory at the Millennium Stadium would see Connacht qualify for the Heineken Cup for the first time in their history.

The Heineken Cup winners earn an extra spot for their own country in next year’s tournament, meaning Connacht would join Leinster, Munster and Ulster in the 17th European Cup.

Inclusion in Europe’s top-tier competition would be a major milestone for Connacht who have featured in all 15 seasons of Challenge Cup rugby.

Eric Elwood’s men currently hold the record for Challenge Cup appearances, having played 98 games since the Challenge Cup’s inception in 1996/97.

Connacht have reached the Challenge Cup quarter-finals on six occasions and the semi-finals three times but a place in the Heineken Cup would be a major boost for the province.

The prospect of welcoming the likes of European giants Toulouse, Leicester and Northampton to The Sportsground is a mouth-watering one for the Galway faithful who have had to watch on as their Irish colleagues have all tasted Heineken Cup success.

Qualification would also be just reward for an impressive Magners League campaign – their best for seven years.

Connacht recorded seven wins and a draw for a total of 39 points from their 22 games. They equaled their highest-ever finish of ninth (since Celtic Rugby switched to a single league rather than two conferences) but were within touching distance of seventh with just a couple of games to play.