British & Irish Cup Round 6 preview
Four quarter-final places are still up for grabs as the British & Irish Cup enters what should be a fascinating final round of pool fixtures.
Reigning cup holders Leinster 'A', inaugural champions Cornish Pirates and Rotherham Titans are already certain to go through to the knockout stages as pool winners while Bristol's total of 23 points guarantees them one of the two runners-up spots at the very least.
Bristol's clash against Leeds Carnegie at Headingley promises to be one of the ties of the round with the Championship title rivals separated by just two points at the top of Pool 5. Saturday's tie will be the third time the sides have played each other this season, the current head-to-head record standing at one win apiece. Leeds produced one of their best performances of the season to win 28-22 in the televised Championship fixture at the Memorial Stadium on December 1, while, six weeks earlier, Bristol prevailed by 21 points to 17 in the first round of the B&I Cup. Leeds need two points to be mathematically certain of maintaining their interest in the competition. Any form of win for Bristol would see them drawn at home in the quarter-finals as one of the top four seeds.
Plymouth and Munster A are locked together at the top of the pool on 18 points apiece with trips to Nottingham and Stirling respectively to come in Round 6. Wins for either would result in qualification. If that transpires and the sides are still level on points then point’s difference will be used to determine who win the pool. Plymouth are currently on +77 compared to Munster's +51.
Virtually all permutations are possible in Pool 2 where only Edinburgh Academicals have nothing but pride to play for. London Scottish currently lead the way on 20 points and will go through as pool winners if they pick up two points or more from their clash with London Welsh at the Athletic Ground on Saturday. Welsh need a four-point differential win at the very least to have any chance of going through, while Pontypridd must pick up maximum points at home to wooden spoonists Edinburgh Academicals and hope that Welsh beat Scottish with neither side picking up any bonus points.
Cornish Pirates are certain of top seed status in the quarter-finals if they achieve a better result than either Leinster A or Bristol Rugby from their Friday night trip to Ulster Ravens. Leinster A are away to Ealing Trailfinders the same evening. Pool 3 winners Rotherham look certain to be drawn away even if they beat Bedford at Goldington for the first time in eight years.
Round 6 fixtures
Friday January 17
Ulster Ravens v Cornish Pirates, KO 19:30
Ealing Trailfinders v Leinster A, KO 19:45
Saturday January 18
Aberavon v Gala, KO 14:00
Ayr v Jersey, KO 14:00
Bedford Blues v Rotherham Titans, KO 14:00
Connacht Eagles v Llanelli, KO 14:00
London Scottish v London Welsh, KO 14:00
Leeds Carnegie v Bristol Rugby, KO 14:00
Moseley v Cross Keys, KO 14:00
Nottingham Rugby v Plymouth Albion, KO 13:00
Pontypridd v Edinburgh Academicals, KO 14:00
Stirling County v Munster A, KO 14:00