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Likely Champions Cup round of 16 draw will see Exeter visit Wasps, Radradra back at Bordeaux

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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A repeat of last October’s 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership final between Exeter and Wasps is on the cards if Champions Cup organisers EPCR decide to restart the suspended tournament using the current pool standings to host a knockout round of 16. 

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Other Champions Cup fixtures would see Pat Lam’s Bristol travel to Bordeaux, a match-up that would result in Semi Radradra returning to his old French club, while Irish favourites Leinster would host Premiership strugglers Gloucester in Dublin. 

When it came to the quarter-final knockout stages in previous years, EPCR would rank the eight qualified teams from 1 to 8 based on the number of points they received across the six pools and they would then pair them off as follows: 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5. 

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Since 2014/15, this pool format consisted of 20 teams spread across five pools of four. However, due to the pandemic, EPCR opted for two pools of twelve teams this season, a total of 24 teams, and the plan was for each team to play four matches. 

That didn’t happen. Just two rounds were played in December, but that has been enough to produce a league table that should see the teams drawn as follows for a round of 16 knockout stage to get the season restarted. 

Applying the same criteria used in past seasons to decide the quarter-final draw, this is how the round of 16 Champions Cup draw would look going by the current standings after two rounds in Pool A and B: 

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Leinster (A1) v Gloucester (B8)
Wasps (A2) v Exeter (B7)
Bordeaux (A3) v Bristol (B6)
La Rochelle (A4) v Clermont (B5)
Lyon (B1) v Sale (A8)
Racing (B2) v Toulon (A7)
Toulouse (B3) v Edinburgh (A6)
Munster (B4) v Scarlets (A5)

The pairings would raise eyebrows. One all-Premiership clash and two all-Top 14 clashes in a round of 16 featuring the top eight from each pool, a line-up consisting of six Premiership teams, six Top 14 teams and four from the PRO14. 

The inclusion of Sale – who didn’t win either of their two December games, picking up just a single losing bonus point – would go against the grain of the high standards demanded in previous Champions Cups where a team would normally need to win at least four of their six pool games to reach the quarter-finals. 

Sale’s one-point tally for eighth spot in Pool A is two less than Ulster who are in ninth place in Pool B but getting the top eight from each pool to play each other is the easiest way to try and take a step forward after what has been a disastrous season for the credibility of the Champions Cup.  

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Premiership Rugby boss Darren Childs confirmed on Thursday that a knockout phase launched by a round of 16 was the likely option for restarting the stalled tournament and confirmation is due within a fortnight. 

“It was decided very quickly by all three leagues CEOs that we would complete the tournament in the four remaining weekends,” he said. “The exact structure has not been agreed and we have already started those discussions.”  

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Likely Champions Cup round of 16 draw will see Exeter visit Wasps, Radradra back at Bordeaux

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