EDINBURGH and Glasgow Warriors will meet in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup if they get through their respective quarter-final ties.
That is a very big if, of course, with Edinburgh welcoming Munster to BT Murrayfield in the quarter-finals at the end of March, and Glasgow Warriors visiting Saracens – the team to whom they lost yesterday in their last match in Pool Three, meaning they qualified as runners-up rather than group winners. But it will remain an intriguing possibility for the next couple of months before the last-eight ties take place on the weekend of Friday 29 to Sunday 31 March.
Edinburgh are seeded higher than Glasgow, and if they were playing against opponents from Ireland, England or France would have what is termed ‘home-country advantage’ – but would not be allowed to play at their designated home ground. The announcement of the semi-final criteria by European Professional Club Rugby this evening simply said “the semi-final will be played in Scotland”, but it is nonetheless understood that as the tournament rules stand Murrayfield will not be an option.
The next three biggest venues in Scotland after Murrayfield are all in Glasgow – Celtic Park, Hampden and Ibrox – meaning that the Warriors could conceivably find themselves as the ‘away’ team in their own city. Stadiums must have a minimum capacity of 25,000 to host a semi.
If Saracens and Edinburgh win their quarter-finals, the English club will have home-country advantage. If Munster and Glasgow win, that semi-final will be in Ireland.
This weekend’s Tennent’s Premiership match reports –
The draw for the last eight, made after the final pair of pool games this afternoon, has also pitted Racing 92 against Toulouse and Leinster against Ulster. The precise dates and kick-off times for the quarter-finals are expected to be announced towards the end of this week, while a meeting to finalise semi-final venues and dates is not expected for several weeks.
Edinburgh, who qualified on Friday by defeating Montpellier, have already played Munster in the PRO14 this season – albeit with a very weakened team. That was in late November, just after the Autumn Internationals, when with most of their Test players rested they were beaten 44-14. Their last knockout match against the Irish province was an altogether tighter affair, when they went down 20-16 in the PRO14 semi-finals at the end of last season.
This is the third time Edinburgh have reached the quarter-finals, and their record to date at this stage is won one, lost one. Glasgow are in the last eight for the second time, having also got there under Gregor Townsend two seasons ago – when they lost at Saracens.
Far from the madding…
The capacity of Allianz Park was extended to 15,000 for that game, and another crowd of that size is expected for the Warriors’ return visit. The capacity of Murrayfield is more than four times greater, of course, and within minutes of his team’s booking their place in the knockout stages, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill had begun his campaign to attract a massive crowd to the quarter-final.
Cockerill sees no reason why a crowd somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 cannot be attracted to the national stadium for the game. That would be well in excess of the 11,000-odd who watched his team beat Montpellier, but previous big matches at Murrayfield have shown that Edinburgh have a sizeable latent support, while Munster can count on bringing a significant travelling support with them from Ireland.
CHAMPIONS CUP QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
QF1: Saracens (ranked No 1) v Glasgow Warriors (8)
QF2: Edinburgh (4) v Munster (5)
QF3: Leinster (3) v Ulster (6)
QF4: Racing 92 (2) v Toulouse (7)
Ties to be played on the weekend of 29-21 March.
Saracens or Glasgow v Edinburgh or Munster
Leinster or Ulster v Racing or Toulouse
Ties to be played on the weekend of 19-21 April.
CHAMPIONS CUP FINAL: St James’ Park, Newcastle, on Saturday 11 May (kick-off 5pm).