Ulster and Leicester in showdown in Welford Road

Ulster Robbie Diack scores the opening try against Montpellier
Ulster Robbie Diack scores the opening try against Montpellier

The focus for the sixth and final round of Heineken Cup pool matches next weekend will be on one place in England.

Welford Road on Saturday, January 18 at 6pm will be set to stage a massive game between two of the heavyweights in Europe.

Leicester Tigers will welcome Ulster to their English fortress with the carrot for both - a lucrative home draw in the quarter-finals of the premier club competition in the Northern Hemisphere.

As Pool Five progressed this season it always looked, even at an early stage, that the group winners would come down to a straight showdown between the two clubs on the final weekend of the Pool matches.

Interestingly, irrespective of the outcome of the game between the two former winners, both are already assured a place in the last eight.

Ulster’s 27-16 win over Montpellier on Friday night at Ravenhill, virtually assured them a place in the last eight.

On Saturday, Leicester came from behind in Italy to see off Benetton Treviso 34-19, secured a try scoring bonus point and moving themselves onto 20 points in the table, two behind Ulster.

Toulon’s demolition of Cardiff Blues in France on Saturday afternoon put the reigning European champions into the last eight as winners of Pool Tw0 - and Ulster’s place was also assured at worst, one of the best two runners-up.

Clermont and Munster, with away wins at Harlequins and Gloucester, also progressed as group winners.

And in an interesting twist to the weekend, the outcomes of the other games secured them a place in the last eight as well, again like their opponents this weekend as a best runner-up at least.

Ulster remain the only side in Europe with a 100 per cent record, and while the history books in the tournament reflect that a team that has come through their pool unbeaten has never won it - Mark Anscombe will be taking his side over to Welford Road intent on securing a win.

That victory would guarantee them the top seeding for the quarter-final.

It does throw up the possibility of a home quarter-final at Ravenhill on the weekend of April 5 against Leicester.

However, a loss would leave Ulster seeded seventh or eighth and facing a daunting trip to France.

Although Ulster had qualified, Anscombe said: “Nothing has changed.

“There was a lot of people talking about us not getting a bonus point against Montpellier.

“Yes, while it was not our ideal work, we won the game and are five from five in the competition. We are proud of that fact,” said Anscombe.

“But everyone knew, with or without the bonus point it was still all going to come down to the final pool game to decide who won the group and got the home draw.

“We are still in control of our own destiny. If we want to come back here for a quarter-final, then we have to win at Welford Road, it is as simple as that.

“So, as I said, nothing has changed. This group of players finished top of the pool last year and did not get a home draw - they are determined to achieve what they want this year.”