Everyone involved with Sale Sharks will be keeping a close on eye on events in the French Top 14 this weekend. Results across the English Channel will decide whether Sharks play in the European Champions Cup or Challenge Cup next season.
La Rochelle will welcome Bordeaux Begles and Montpellier will travel to face Clermont tomorrow. The outcome of these matches in the final round of fixtures in the regular season will establish who finishes seventh.
Both France and England could have seven teams in the top competition. The seventh qualifying spot in the next edition of the Champions Cup should go to the winner of this year’s Challenge Cup. Clermont took the honours in Newcastle two weeks ago. However, they have already secured a top six finish. As a result, the extra place goes to the team they beat in the final.
That side was La Rochelle, who currently sit seventh in the Top 14 table. Depending on results elsewhere, victory this weekend could see them move into the top six.
The team immediately above La Rochelle is Montpellier. The two are equal on points but Montpellier have a much better points difference.
If La Rochelle move into the leading six and secure an automatic Champions Cup spot, the seventh berth will be up for grabs.
The rules state that, in these circumstances, it will go to the highest non-qualifier from the Champion’s Cup winning country. Saracens’ victory over Leinster at St James’ Park means that it will be Sharks who secure that place.
Written by Colin Renton