The crème de la crème of northern hemisphere rugby go head-to-head in the battle for the sport’s biggest honours in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions.
Club sides from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy will all be vying to rip the trophy from Leinster, who last season became only the second side to both successfully retain the title and lift a third European honour.
The final round of the pool stages takes place this weekend with quarter-final places at stake, and Sky Sports will again screen 11 live Heineken Cup games as well as one match from the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Four sides have already secured their places in the last-eight of this season’s competition, leaving four sides to slug it out for the remaining spots.
But with the top four seeds – the sides with the most points from the pool stages – gaining home draws in the quarter-finals, there is still plenty to play for.
Unbeaten Harlequins and Clermont are safely through to the last-eight and look good bets for home ties.
Quins, currently the leading seeds on 24 points, travel to Biarritz, with this pool three match opening Sky Sports’ live Heineken Cup coverage on Friday night (k/o 8pm), with the other match from the pool – Connacht v Zebre – live on the Red Button.
A triple-header of live games on Saturday begins with Ulster, the beaten finalists last year, travelling to French side Castres with their sights set on clinching a home quarter-final (k/o 1.35pm).
The Irish province have also done enough to progress to the quarter-finals, although they have picked up just 19 points so far, while Castres have a small mathematical chance of sneaking into the knockout stages
Northampton could potentially finish level with them at the top after the final round of games, however Ulster would still go through as group winners as they picked up six points from their games with the Saints, who collected just four.
The Saints are on 14 points and travel to Glasgow with the unenviable task of trying to win and score at least four tries, a match which will be shown via the Red Button (k/o 1.35pm)
Jim Mallinder’s men have managed just six tries in the pool stages this season – with only Castres managing fewer amongst the contenders for the quarter-finals.
Pool six would appear to have one of the two spots in the bag, with Toulon guaranteed a place even if they are overhauled by Montpellier in the standings. The two meet in the second live match on Saturday afternoon (k/o 3.40pm).
Montpellier, themselves, are the best placed of the sides currently in second spot in their pools having already collected 18 points, and although facing an unbeaten Toulon side will not be easy, they are still in a strong position given they have scored 15 tries already.
Defending champions Leinster are in a precarious position in pool five as Clermont have wrapped up top spot.
Leinster have picked up 15 points so far and to edge out some of their rivals they will need a bonus point win over Exeter at Sandy Park in the final game of Sky’s triple-bill on Saturday (k/o 6pm).
That would see Leinster move to 20 points, while the best fellow hopefuls Northampton and Biarritz can hope for is 19 points.
The other match in pool five – Scarlets v Clermont – will be shown via the Red Button (k/o 6pm).
On Sunday, the four remaining pool stages games will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, with two of those via the Red Button.
In pool one, Saracens are in pole position after their sensational victory away against Racing Metro in round five. Sarries have 18 points and travel to winless Edinburgh full of confidence (k/o 12.45pm).
However Munster kept their hopes very much alive with victory over Edinburgh on Sunday. That moved them to 15 points but they face a much tougher final game, with Racing Metro the visitors to Thomond Park – live on the Red Button (k/o 12.45pm).
In pool two, Leicester and Toulouse will clash in a mouth-watering showdown for the top spot (k/o 3.00pm).
The French giants currently have a two-point advantage in the standings, with a late try from the Ospreys denying Leicester the victory that would have seen them share the lead.
A win for Toulouse would see them guaranteed a place in the last eight while a draw would also be enough.
A victory for Leicester at Welford Road could still not be enough for them, though. Should Leicester only claim four points, Toulouse would snatch top spot if they pick up two bonus points.
Treviso play host to Ospreys in the other match in pool two, with both sides already knocked out of the competition. This will be shown live via the Red Button (k/o 3.00pm).
Sky Sports will be the only place to follow all the action from the 2012/13 Heineken Cup, with a plethora of live games from the opening round through to the final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday, May 18.
Alex Payne and James Gemmell will present Sky Sports’ live coverage of both competitions, with expert analysis and comment from Will Greenwood, Dewi Morris, Dean Ryan, Paul Wallace, Scott Quinnell and many more.
Commentary on all the big games will be led by Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes. Other members of the commentary team include Johnnie Hammond, Mark Robson, Martin Gillingham, Simon Ward, Ieuan Evans, Scott Hastings and Andrew Cotter.
Welsh language channel S4C will have free-to-air highlights of the competition throughout the season, with selected live games from Amlin Challenge Cup featuring Welsh teams.
On radio, BBC 5 live, 5 live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website will have live commentary of selected matches.
Details of how to follow Round 6 of the 2012/13 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup below:
Indicates Heineken Cup / Amlin Challenge Cup matches Thursday 17th January Newport-Gwent Dragons v Wasps – Pool 3 Kick-off: 19:45 | LIVE: 7.30pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Kick-off: 19:45 | DELAYED: 11.05pm-12.50am – S4C Friday 18th January Biarritz v Harlequins – Pool 3 Kick-off: 20:00 | LIVE: 7.30pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 2 Connacht v Zebre – Pool 3 Kick-off: 20:00 | LIVE: Sky Sports 2 (Red Button) Saturday 19th January Castres v Ulster – Pool 4 Kick-off: 13:35 | LIVE: 1.00pm-3.30pm – Sky Sports 3 Glasgow Warriors v Northampton – Pool 4 Kick-off: 13:35 | LIVE: Sky Sports 3 (Red Button) Montpellier v Toulon – Pool 6 Kick-off: 15:40 | LIVE: 3.30pm-5.45pm – Sky Sports 3 Exeter v Leinster – Pool 5 Kick-off: 18:00 | LIVE: 5.45pm-8.00pm – Sky Sports 3 Scarlets v Clermont Auvergne – Pool 5 Kick-off: 18:00 | LIVE: Sky Sports 3 (Red Button) Match Highlights: Cwpan Heineken (Welsh language, English subtitles) Feat. Cardiff Blues v Sale & Scarlets v Clermont Auvergne 10.00pm-11.00pm – S4C Sunday 20th January Saracens v Edinburgh – Pool 1 Kick-off: 12:45 | LIVE: 12.30pm-2.45pm – Sky Sports 2 Munster v Racing Metro 92 – Pool 1 Kick-off: 12:45 | LIVE: Sky Sports 2 (Red Button) Leicester v Toulouse – Pool 2 Kick-off: 15:00 | LIVE: 2.45pm-5.30pm – Sky Sports 2 Treviso v Ospreys – Pool 2 Kick-off: 15:00 | LIVE: Sky Sports 2 (Red Button) Match Highlights: Cwpan Heineken (Welsh language, English subtitles) Feat. Treviso v Ospreys 7.00pm-8.00pm – S4C European Rugby Special 9.00pm-10.00pm – Sky Sports 4 . . .
Sky Sports subscribers can follow every Heineken Cup match via the Sky Sports Events Centre – CLICK HERE
Keep up to date with all the latest Heineken Cup reports, score flashes and results by logging onto the Sky Sports rugby union website, or by following Sky Sports’ dedicated rugby union Twitter feed (@SkySportsRugby).
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