Welcome to the first installment of our European Club Top Ten. Here is how it works. We subjectively take all the teams that are playing in the Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect Pro12, and Top 14, shake them down according to current form both in domestic and European competitions, and then we pick our top ten. Feel free to leave your comments.
1. Clermont: They not only have the top spot in the Top 14 by three points but they have also qualified as Heineken Cup quarterfinalists thanks to their win over Harlequins.
2. Munster: The only team to match Clermont’s achievements is Munster, who also leads the RaboDirect Pro12 by three points and has secured qualification to the Heineken Cup quarterfinals.
3. Leinster: The Dublin side trail Munster in the standings by three points in what is a very tight race. They have also won their Heineken Cup group ensuring that there won’t be a repeat of last year when they ended up in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
4. Saracens: It’s tempting to put Toulon or Toulouse in the spot, especially since Toulouse beat Saracens last weekend, but as it stands Saracens will qualify for the Heineken Cup quarterfinals and sit in the top position in the Aviva Premiership.
5. Toulouse: They did themselves a huge favor by beating Saracens last weekend and with Zebre up next in the final weekend of pool play they are all but assured as group winners. However, it’s not all rosy in the south of France as they sit fourth in the Top 14.
6. Toulon: Only one team has more points than Toulon in Heineken Cup play, which just goes to show you how strong they have been. But in the Top 14 they have faltered this year giving up points when they should be taking home bonus point wins. With their star players in tow they are expected to do more.
7. Northampton: The Saints are the only team that can realistically contend for the regular season Premiership title with Saracens. It wouldn’t be a shock to see those two in the final at the end of the season. However, their loss to Leinster in the Heineken Cup a several weeks back has not been good for their chances of making the quarterfinals. They need a big last weekend.
8. Castres: Castres would be higher on the list considering they sit third in the Top 14 but they have not had a strong Heineken Cup campaign and are set to miss out.
9. Stade Francais: It says something about the club that they have crawled back in the Top 14 race after falling off the pace. But when you are ninth in the rankings you have to have a downside and being level on points with London Irish in the Amlin Challenge Cup is it.
10. Bath: They have a long way to go if they want to catch either Saracens or Northampton but at least they won their pool with ease in the Amlin Challenge Cup.