For the first time in four seasons, Jersey will go into their final pool game of the British & Irish Cup with hopes of qualification for the knock-out stages of the cup competition, albeit with a massive challenge ahead in the shape of Doncaster Knights, who lie second in the Greene King IPA Championship and are unbeaten for their last 12 matches. How does the format of the tournament unfold, and what do the Men in Red need to do on their trip to Yorkshire? Here is a round-up of the procedure going into the crucial final round of matches.
What's the situation in Pool 5?
Jersey's opponents this weekend, Doncaster Knights, have 21 points, with four wins and a points difference of +94. Jersey have 17 points, three wins and a points difference of +79. The Dragons Select and Connacht Eagles have 10 and zero points respectively, so are out of contention.
How do clubs qualify for the quarter-finals on the second weekend of March?
The winners of the five pools all qualify, and will be seeded 1-5 according to their pool record (most match points, then most wins, then points difference) plus the three runners-up with the best records (they'll be seeded 6-8).
What are the current standings across all five pools?
With one match to play, the standings among teams in contention are as follows:
1. Leinster A - 24pts (top of pool 1)
2. Yorkshire Carnegie - 21 (top of pool 3)
3. Doncaster - 21 (top of pool 5)
4. London Welsh - 20 (top of pool 4)
5. Bedford Blues - 19 (top of pool 2)
6. Cornish Pirates - 18 (2nd in pool 4)
7. Jersey - 17 (2nd in pool 5)
8. Munster A - 16 (2nd in pool 3)
9. London Scottish - 15 (3rd in pool 3)
10. Moseley - 15 (2nd in pool 1)
11. Bristol - 14 (2nd in pool 2)
What are the fixtures in Round 6 this weekend?
Leinster A v Rotherham
Bristol v Ulster A
Nottingham v Cardiff Blues
Doncaster Knights v Jersey
London Welsh v Cornish Pirates
Munster A v London Scottish
Bedford v Scarlets
Ealing Trailfinders v Moseley
Dragons v Connacht Eagles
Ospreys v Yorkshire Carnegie
What do Jersey need to do to win the pool?
As in league matches, the winning team in B&I Cup pool matches get 4 match points and can achieve an additional bonus point if they score four tries; the losers can achieve the try bonus point, and/or a losing bonus point if they lose by seven points or fewer.
* A Jersey win by 0-4 or 0-5 match points would see us top the pool. A scoreline with Jersey winning by eight points or more would achieve this, unless Doncaster achieved the 4-try BP and Jersey did not
* A 1-5 split of match points would see both sides on 22 points, and a tie-breaker on points difference, with Jersey needing to win by eight points or more
* If Jersey win, but the split of match points is 1-4, 2-4 or 2-5, the Knights top the pool, but Jersey would still qualify (see below)
Does winning the pool guarantee a home QF?
No. Only the four pool winners with the best records get a home draw; the lowest-ranked pool winner will be away.
If we don't top the pool, would Jersey qualify by winning the game?
Yes, any win secures a guaranteed QF berth. Should Jersey win 1-4 on match points, for example by a score of 12-15, we would have 21 points and be out of range of the likely runners-up in pools 1 and 2, Moseley and Bristol, so the lowest possible ranking would be 8th.
What are our prospects if we can't get a win at Doncaster?
It's less certain what the result of a draw - we've had two already against the Knights this season - or a loss this Saturday would be. This would depend on results in the other matches. If we were to get 3 points from a high-scoring draw, then the chances of progressing would be high. Securing either 2 or 1 points would offer reduced prospects, while failing to get a single point would be likely to see us eliminated, although there would still be an outside chance of qualification with the current total of 17 points.
What are the arrangements for the QF draw?
The pairings for the QF matches will be confirmed by the Organising Committee during the first week of February. Tournament regulations give the Organising Committee flexibility and discretion regarding the draw. The stated intention is to stick, as closely as possible, to a 'seeded' draw pairing 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5, but the primary consideration is to keep teams apart who have been in the same group during the pool phases.
If Jersey will have an away QF, how soon can I make my travel arrangements?
The QF pairings won't be confirmed until early February, as above, and after this the clubs drawn together will discuss the exact timing of the match, which could take place on Friday evening, Saturday or Sunday. As with the draft league fixtures issued in June, we would urge supporters not to make fixed travel plans until the fixtures are confirmed by clubs.
What about the semi-finals?
That's some way off! The semi-final draw will also take place in the first week of February, with the two semi-finals taking place on the third weekend of March.
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.