Three of the Guinness PRO14 teams set to be in action in the European Challenge Cup this weekend have already managed to qualify for the quarter-finals.
It’s an impressive achievement for Edinburgh, Connacht and Cardiff Blues with the Dragons able to join them if they win and other results go their way.
Success or failure this weekend could make all the difference down the road though with seedings helping to decide who has home advantage in the knockout stages.
Zebre Rugby v Agen
Kick-off: 2pm (GMT)
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Despite their improving Guinness PRO14 form, Zebre’s difficulties in Europe have not abated just yet. However a win at home on Saturday will prevent them finishing bottom of Pool Three.
Agen’s only win of the competition thus far came against the Italians in Round One and after picking up three bonus points to date a win for Zebre would see them leapfrog the French outfit.
Pau and Gloucester have both already qualified from this group and the two sides meet at Kingsholm on Friday night to decide who finishes as group winner.
Connacht v Oyonnax
Venue: The Sportsground
Connacht have already booked their place in the quarter-finals but a win over Oyonnax, bottom of Pool Five with a single win, would guarantee them a home quarter-final.
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) 23 December 2017
The Irish province are yet to lose in the Challenge Cup this season, with four wins and a draw so far, and will be desperate to maintain that winning momentum in front of their home fans.
Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion were all selected for Ireland’s Six Nations squad this week off the back of impressive performances for Connacht.
James Cannon and Cormac Brennan have both returned to full training this week having both recovered from their respective shoulder injuries.
Dragons v Bordeaux-Begles
Venue: Rodney Parade
The Dragons fans face arguably the most anxious of weekend’s knowing even a bonus point win over Bordeaux-Begles may not be enough for them to progress.
Success at Rodney Parade, with a bonus point, will move the Dragons up to 16 points with Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors best placed to overhaul them.
The Sharks though need a bonus point win in Toulouse to reach the 16-point mark while the Warriors will reach 19 points with any kind of win over Brive.
A bonus point win for Brive would see them up to 17 points and qualification at Dragons expense so the permutations are very likely to shift throughout Saturday afternoon.
Lyon v Cardiff Blues
Kick-off: 5pm (GMT)
Venue: Matmut Stadium de Gerland
Cardiff Blues travel to France with qualification already secured after four victories and a single defeat in their European campaign to date.
But the 2010 winners know even a victory in Lyon, moving them up to 21 points, is unlikely to see them as one of the top four seeds and have a home quarter-final.
Lots of our supporters are Lyon bound today! Safe travels guys !!! ✈️🥖🥐🍷 🇫🇷
— Cardiff Blues SC (@CardiffBluesSC) 18 January 2018
A defeat for Connacht, at home to Oyonnax, would be their only hope, with difficult away quarter-final trips to fellow group winners Newcastle Falcons, Edinburgh or Gloucester/Pau more likely.
Stade Francais Paris v Edinburgh
Kick-off: 8pm (GMT)
Venue: Stade Jean-Bouin
A bonus point win for Edinburgh out in France would guarantee the Scots number one seeding heading into the quarter-final stages having already secured top spot in Pool Four.
Richard Cockerill’s have a perfect five from five in Europe this season and have picked up four try bonus points on the way.
Edinburgh’s thrilling 34-33 success over Stade last weekend was the first time they had not secured the full five points and they’ll be expecting an even tougher test in France.
Another win though would do wonders for the confidence of this Edinburgh side who will be looking to go deep into the knockout stages.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie