The Heineken Cup quarter-finalists will do battle on the weekend of April 11 / 12 to secure coveted last four places - as well as competing to secure valuable ERC European Ranking points for the 2009/10 Heineken Cup draw for the composition of the six Pools.
The ERC European Ranking system, which was introduced for the draw for the current tournament, aims to reward and incentivise teams who consistently perform at the highest level in European competition over four seasons by separating the leading teams in the Pool stages.
With an excellent European run this season, Pool 4 winners Harlequins have jumped from 35th to 21st in the ERC European Rankings while their quarter-final opponents Leinster just need a win at the Twickenham Stoop to move into the Top Tier of six teams for the first time.
Bath Rugby have moved into the Top Tier in the rankings having qualified for the quarter-finals as Pool 6 winners and earned five ranking points while reigning champions Munster and formers winners Leicester Tigers and Toulouse also look set to retain their top Tier status for next season.
Both Welsh regions in the quarter-finals have also improved their European Rankings with Cardiff Blues jumping from 17th to 8th position and the Ospreys moving from 15th to 12th and are both now in contention for Tier 2 status if they qualify for next season's draw.
The 24 competing teams in the Heineken Cup who qualify through their domestic tournaments are, for the purposes of the Pool draw, awarded different points for their finishing positions in the two ERC organised competitions, the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup, over the previous four seasons.
Teams can earn between one to 11 points each season in the Heineken Cup and up to five points in the European Challenge Cup to go towards their four season roll-over ERC European Ranking.
The rankings are used to establish four tiers of six teams each with the reigning Heineken Cup champions automatically going into top spot of Tier 1 along with Europe's other, currently, most successful teams.
The draw for the 2009/10 tournament will again distribute one team from each of the four Tier levels into each of the six Pools. As before, no teams from the same country will be drawn in the same Pool with the exception of when there are seven teams qualified from either England or France.
The Rankings for next season's tournament will be compiled from points earned in the 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons.
(Points per stage - Total points)
Winner - 2 - 10 / 11
Finalist - 2 - 8 / 9
Semi-finalist - 2 - 6 / 7
Quarter-finalist - 1 - 4 / 5
Pool winner - 4
Pool runner-up - 3
Pool third - 2
Pool fourth - 1
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP
(Points per stage - Total points)
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WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
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