With just two games of the regular Premiership season to go, and the play-offs in May, the official Gloucester website rounds up the criteria for European qualification next season.
European Qualification for Season 2005/06
Going into Round 21 of the Zurich Premiership Leicester and London Wasps have now qualified for the Zurich Premiership playoffs in May, and hence also qualified for next season's European Cup.
The remaining Zurich Premiership playoff spot is now a four horse race between Bath, Sale, Saracens and Gloucester.
The Zurich Premiership semi-final on Friday 6 May will now be either at Welford Road or the Causeway Stadium and will see the home side take on either Bath, Sale, Saracens or Gloucester, with the winners progressing to Twickenham.
The picture, with regards to other European qualification positions, will become clearer after the Powergen Cup final between Bath and Leeds this coming weekend, but as it stands all ten other clubs in the Premiership excepting Leicester and Wasps (who have already qualified for the European Cup next season) can still make it into the Zurich Wildcard semi-finals.
1. Heineken Cup Winner
2. Zurich Premiership Final Winner
3. Zurich Premiership Final Runner Up
4. Zurich Premiership Semi Final Runner Up
5. European Challenge Cup Winner
6. Zurich Wildcard Winner
7. Powergen Cup Winner
8. Heineken Cup Finalist Runner Up
9. Zurich Premiership Fourth Place
10. Zurich Premiership Fifth Place
11. Zurich Premiership Sixth Place
A. English Premiership Clubs will qualify for a place in the Heineken Cup for the 2005/06 season based on results in the 2004/05 season.
B. Should any club(s) qualify in two or more ways, it will take the highest position for which it qualifies and relinquish any other qualification. In these cases the clubs in positions below such relinquished places will move up to occupy the position above.
C. If a Zurich Premiership club does not win the Heineken Cup the clubs at '2.' and below shall move up to occupy the position above.
D. If a Zurich Premiership club does not win the European Challenge Cup the clubs at '6.' and below shall move up one place.
E. A club relegated from the Zurich Premiership at the end of the 2004/05 season is not eligible to play in European competitions for the season immediately following and in the event of such club qualifying for European competitions for the season immediately following, it shall relinquish such qualification and the clubs in the positions below the relinquished place will move up to occupy the position above.
Guaranteed Heineken Cup Places:
The following five English clubs will automatically qualify for the Heineken Cup 2005/06:
Zurich Premiership Final Winner
Zurich Premiership Final Runner Up
Zurich Premiership Semi Final Runner Up
European Challenge Cup Winner
Zurich Wildcard Winner
A. According to ERC rules, as English clubs outperformed Italian clubs in the quarter final stage or above in the Heineken Cup 2004/05 (Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers all qualified for the quarter finals), a sixth Zurich Premiership club qualifies for the Heineken Cup 2005/06. This will be the club that wins the Powergen Cup, or if not applicable for any reason, the next club down the qualification list.
B. According to ERC rules, whichever English, French or Italian club progresses furthest in the Heineken Cup 2004/05, their country will qualify for a further club place in the Heineken Cup 2005/06. Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not included in this as they are at maximum level for number of clubs that can qualify automatically. Italian clubs have not reached the knock-out stages of the competition this season. If an English club progresses further than a French club in the Heineken Cup 2004/05, then an additional (7th) place will be granted to English clubs in the 2005/06 Heineken Cup.
If The Powergen Cup Winner Is Relegated From the Zurich Premiership:
If the Powergen Cup Winner is relegated from the Zurich Premiership at the end of the 2004/05 season then the club will not qualify for the Heineken Cup 2005/06 as only Premiership clubs can play in the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup. If this happens then the Powergen Cup Winner will have to relinquish qualification and the clubs in positions below the relinquished place will move up one place.
Zurich Wildcard - Qualification for the Heineken Cup:
The four Zurich Premiership clubs with the highest finishing position in the league that have not automatically qualified for the Heineken Cup 2005/06 will enter the Zurich Wildcard - a competition that gives one of the clubs a chance to qualify. The four clubs will be seeded 1 to 4 according to their final finishing positions in the Zurich Premiership after Round 22, with the highest placed club being ranked 1 and the lowest of the four ranked 4. The club seeded 1 plays at home to the club seeded 4 and the club seeded 2 plays at home to the club seeded 3, in the Zurich Wildcard Semi Finals over the weekend of 7/8 May 2005.
The Zurich Wildcard Final then takes place on Saturday 14 May at Twickenham immediately before the Zurich Premiership Final. The club that wins the Zurich Wildcard Final qualifies for the Heineken Cup 2005/06.
European Challenge Cup 2005/06
The remaining Premiership clubs who have not qualified for the Heineken Cup 2005/06, will qualify for the European Challenge Cup 2005/06, ranked in order of their final position in the Zurich Premiership table at the end of the 2004/05 season.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).