European Cup under Irish rule as Six Nations beckons
Heineken is good for Munster, Leinster and Ulster
Irish rugby is in a very good place heading into the Six Nations Championships after three of the four provinces qualified for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.
Munster will be top seeds for the draw for the last eight after their emphatic 51-36 win at Northampton on Saturday as they completed Pool One with a 100 per cent record.
Champions Leinster are also guaranteed a home draw after beating Montpellier at the RDS on a 25-3 scoreline.
Ulster were already qualified for the quarters, thanks to Connacht’s win over Harlequins on Friday, before they went down to Clermont 19-15 in France.
Brian McLaughlin’s team must now travel in the quarter-finals with a game against Munster a real live possibility depending on the results from Sunday’s final pool games.
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Winger Simon Zebo scored a sensational hat-trick for Munster as they hammered last year’s beaten finalists in Northampton.
Munster captain Paul O’Connell was philosophical after landing top seed status for the quarter-final draw.
“We’ve proved nothing yet - we’ve just come out of our pool and won nothing. We’ve got a long way to go to emulate the teams of 2006 and 2008 who won the tournament,” he said.
After his team’s Dublin win, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said: “We’re in a home quarter-final is the over-riding verdict. The process was pretty pleasing to be honest.
“It’s nice to have a little momentum. We’ve put a good few results together even if they haven’t all been great performances. We’ve just got to bide out time now, watch the Six Nations and hope the guys come out of that fully fit. In the meantime, play a bit of Pro 12 and maintain our standards there.”
Ulster coach McLaughlin was disappointed after the defeat in Clermont. He said: “We came here wanting to get a home quarter-final for our fans and I think that’s why we’re exceptionally disappointed.”
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