Rugby union comment: The demise of the Welsh and Scottish clubs in the European Cup has continued apace this term, as limited funding opportunities and loss of their major players to France and England begins to tell.
Edinburgh bucked the trend with a semi-final spot last season but unless something is done, the current state of affairs suggests that teams from Scotland and Wales are unlikely to figure at the business end of the competition for years to come.
In contrast, a trio of French sides in Toulouse, Clermont Auvergne and Toulon are in prime position to secure a home draw in the quarter-final stages.
Leinster, winners of the competition for the last two seasons, are not guaranteed to claim one of the two second-place positions that make up the eight quarter-finalists along with each pool winner.
Harlequins have already qualified, but they need to win again on Saturday to secure one of the four home quarter-final places that go to those four highest points-scoring pool winners.
On Sunday Saracens are favourites to beat Edinburgh — who are yet to score one single point in the competition thus far — so three of the pools are virtually decided.
The fixture at Leicester’s Welford Road in Pool Two is a crucial one for the Tigers and their visitors Toulouse.
With four wins in the competition since its inception in 1995, Toulouse require victory to proceed as winners of the pool.
The stakes are high though as a win for the Tigers could potentially see Toulouse qualify for the last eight as one of the second place contenders with an away draw.
As a result, though neither side have been at their best of late, both will be intently focused on winning this crucial fixture.
Munster’s final pool match brings Racing Metro to Thomond Park in Limerick, where a bonus point victory for the home side would take their tally to 20 points and an extremely favourable position.
Nevertheless Racing Metro also have designs on winning this competition and a win in Limerick could see them through in one of the second-place spots.
There is still everything to play for as far as Pool One is concerned.
Racing will hope to put on a performance like their first-half showing against Saracens when they scored three first-half tries in the first 20 minutes to lead 19-6 and by 25-18 at half time.
Owen Farrell’s prodigious goal-kicking with 11 perfect kicks yielded a 37-28 win in Nantes.
Pool Four is topped by Ulster who need to get something out of their trip to Castres to put them in a position to win the group.
Ulster’s tally of 19 points can only be bettered by Northampton, who have a far less daunting challenge at Glasgow.
But no club has secured a four-try bonus point against Glasgow this season so the Saints will expect an extremely physical game there.
Similarly, Castres are unbeaten at home in Europe this season, although Ulster will only feel that they need to score a bonus point to proceed and worry less about their quarter-final position.
They have been dealt a bitter blow by injury to their influential number eight Nick Williams, who is set to be sidelined for at least a month with a medial ligament problem in his left knee.
This period of the competition is always the hardest to predict but it looks likely that the home quarter-finalists will be Saracens, Harlequins, Clermont and Toulon, with the away sides being Ulster, Montpellier and two from
Leicester, Toulouse, Leinster and Munster.
The prospect of good French sides like Toulon and Clermont getting home draws makes it a good bet that this year’s European Cup is heading in only one direction.
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