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New European Ranking System For Heineken Cup

28th May 2008

The new ERC European Ranking system to be introduced for next month's 2008/09 Heineken Cup draw, currently places Cardiff Blues in Tier 2 of seeds alongisde the Ospreys and Scarlets.

The new ranking system, which will be in use for the first time next season, sees the 24 teams that qualify for the tournament divided into four tiers of six teams each based on their European performances over the past four years. The teams from each tier level will be kept apart in the pools.
This season's Heineken Cup winners Munster are top Tier 1 seed, alongside Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Wasps, as well as current French champions Stade Francais. New champions Munster automatically go into Tier 1 due to their position as Heineken Cup winners, although they are also the number one side by virtue of their performances over the last four seasons.

With three rounds of the French Top 14 still to be played, fellow potential Tier 1 club Biarritz Olympique still have some work to do to book their place in next season's competition.

Bath Rugby's 24-16 victory over Worcester Warriors in the European Challenge Cup 2008 final at Kingsholm, Gloucester, last Sunday (25 May) ended Worcester's hopes of immediate Heineken Cup rugby and meant Harlequins qualified as the sixth and final English club and the 18th qualifier overall for next season from the six competing nations.

Still in the balance are six qualifiers - four of the seven French places, as ASM Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse and Stade Fran├žais Paris are safely through - and the two Italian spots.

In Italy, the first legs of the end-of-season semi-finals ended in wins for Viadana and Rugby Calvisano. Viadana made home advantage count to beat Benetton Treviso 20-16 while Rugby Calvisano won 20-18 at Petrarca Rugby. The two Heineken Cup qualifiers from Italy are due to be settled this weekend after the second legs of the Italian semi-finals.

Heineken Cup qualifiers 2008/09 (alphabetically by tier)
Tier 1
Leicester Tigers
London Wasps
Stade Fran├žais Paris

Tier 2
Bath Rugby
Cardiff Blues
Gloucester Rugby
Llanelli Scarlets
Sale Sharks

Tier 3
ASM Clermont Auvergne
Glasgow Warriors
Newport Gwent Dragons
Ulster Rugby
The 2008 / 2009 Heineken Cup weekends are:

ROUND 1 - 10 / 11 / 12 October
ROUND 2 - 17 / 18 / 19 October
ROUND 3 - 5 / 6 / 7 December
ROUND 4 - 12 / 13 / 14 December

ROUND 5 - 16 / 17 / 18 January
ROUND 6 - 23 / 24 / 25 January
QUARTER-FINALS - 10 / 11 / 12 April
SEMI-FINALS - 1 / 2 / 3 May

Martyn Williams is currently the second placed Welsh player in the all time list of Heineken Cup appearances. Martyn has played 63 games in the competition, 3 behind Chris Wyatt. Of the six players that are above Wyatt in the all time list, five are Munster players, with  Anthony Foley top of the pile with 86 games.