Permutations explained: How Ulster can reach European quarter-finals even if they lose out in Leicester
Ulster supporters, for one weekend only, will be cheering on Edinburgh, Munster and Bath as they look to secure their spot in the European quarter-finals. Here's why.
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Last weekend's narrow success over Racing 92 at Kingspan Stadium has put Dan McFarland's men within a whisker of qualification.
A win at Leicester on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3.15pm) would, of course, be enough to secure progression. But what if Ulster are beaten at Welford Road?
Well all hope is not lost - far from it. Ahead of the final round of pool fixtures, Ulster, Glasgow and Toulouse are in pole position for the three quarter-final places reserved for best runners-up.
In fact, Ulster WILL take one of those places if TWO of these three scenarios go the right way, regardless of their own result.
1. Edinburgh v Montpellier (Friday 7.45pm)
The first key game for Ulster fans to keep an eye on is Montpellier's trip to Edinburgh on Friday evening. Ulster supporters will be cheering against their former hero Ruan Pienaar and his French side because, unless they grab two points or more from their visit to the Scottish capital, they will finish below Ulster in the runners-up ranks. Given that Edinburgh are still fighting for their own progression and top spot in their pool, a home win is the smart man's bet. And as Benetton are the only visiting team to score four tries against Edinburgh this season, those two losing bonus points would be a remarkable feat for the French.
2. Munster v Exeter (Saturday 5.30pm)
Another of the pools of most interest to Ulster is Pool 2. It would take an even more particular result when Exeter visit Munster on Saturday evening (kick-off 5.30pm) to deny McFarland's men. The only result that would trump a pointless Ulster would be an Exeter bonus-point win over a Munster team that also bagged a losing point for their efforts. Fear not, Munster are strong at home - they've won all eight of their games at Thomond Park so far this season. To be fair, Ulster don't need any lectures over those strengths, do they?
3. Bath v Toulouse (Sunday 3.15pm)
So what if one of those two results hasn't gone to plan? Well there could be a saving grace in the form of Bath. Should they deny Toulouse a single point when the pair meet at the Recreation Ground on Sunday, Ulster would still go through.
Remember though, that's all only if Ulster come a cropper at Welford Road. But, as discussed on this week's Ulster Rugby Round Up podcast, our panel are backing the boys to win.
Belfast Telegraph Digital