Following the epic Dublin 2013 finals which featured Heineken Cup success for Toulon and an Amlin Challenge Cup victory for Leinster, there was good news on the qualification front for Connacht and Perpignan who both secured places in the 2013/14 Heineken Cup.
Once both Clermont Auvergne and Toulon qualified for the Heineken Cup final, France were guaranteed seven places in next season’s tournament. That place has now gone to Perpignan who finished in seventh place in the Top 14 standings.
Leinster’s fourth European title in five seasons, and a first Amlin Challenge Cup triumph, put a smile on the faces of Connacht and their new head coach Pat Lam as the westerners are now guaranteed a Heineken Cup spot for a third year in a row.
Since the 2009/10 season, both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup champions qualify automatically for the following season’s Heineken Cup and each winner earns an extra place for their countries over and above the guaranteed allocations of six teams for France and England, three for Ireland and Wales, and two for Scotland and Italy.
France are represented by the same six sides who secured their places from the Top 14 standings as last season, plus Perpignan, while in England, Gloucester return to the top flight after a one-year absence, and Exeter Chiefs have qualified for a second successive season.
Meanwhile, both the 2013 champions Toulon and Clermont and have secured Tier 1 status in the ERC European rankings for the first time, along with Toulouse and three Irish provinces, Leinster, Munster and Ulster, in advance of next month’s pool draw for the 2013/14 tournament.
FRANCE (Six automatic places, maximum of seven):
Clermont Auvergne, Toulon, Toulouse, Castres Olympique, Montpellier, Racing Metro 92 and Perpignan
– Once two French clubs qualified for the Heineken Cup final, France were guaranteed seven places in the 2013/14 tournament
– Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup final victory means that Perpignan qualify as the seventh French club
ENGLAND (Six automatic places, maximum of seven):
Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Harlequins, Northampton Saints, Gloucester and Exeter Chiefs
IRELAND (Three automatic places, maximum of four):
Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht
– Leinster’s win in the Amlin Challenge Cup final means that Connacht qualify for the 2013/14 Heineken Cup
WALES (Three automatic places, maximum of four):
Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues
SCOTLAND (Two places):
Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh
ITALY (Two places):
Benetton Treviso and Zebre