URC play-offs: Why Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors have it tough, potential opponents, dates and format

Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both lost at the weekend but still managed to book their places in the United Rugby Championship play-offs. But this is where it is likely to get very tough indeed for the two Scottish pro sides.

Pro14 champions Leinster have sealed top spot in the URC standings. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Images
Pro14 champions Leinster have sealed top spot in the URC standings. Picture: Donall Farmer/PA Images

How the URC play-offs work

One-legged quarter-finals and semis will be used to determine the inaugural URC finalists.

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There is one round of regular league fixtures remaining but results cannot alter who finishes in the top eight. There could be movement within the top eight, however. Glasgow are currently seventh and Edinburgh eighth but the two sides play each other at Murrayfield on May 21 (whoever loses will play Leinster in the quarters). Both teams are on 50 points, with Glasgow currently above Edinburgh because they have won more games (10) than their rivals (nine).

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The play-off quarter-finals are scheduled for June 3-4-5 and home advantage will go to the top four. The format is that first will play eighth (QF1), second will play seventh (QF2), third will play sixth (QF3) and fourth will play fifth (QF4).

The semi-finals on June 10-11-12 will see the winners of QF1 host the winners of QF4, and the winners of QF2 host the winners of QF3.

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The final will take place on June 18 at the home of the highest-ranked team.

Who’s in the top eight?

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Either Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh will be heading to Dublin to face Leinster in the URC play-off quarter-finals. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Leinster cannot be caught at the top of the table so will have home advantage all the way through to the final if they progress that far, and few would bet against it. The Dublin side won the Pro14 four seasons in a row from 2017-18 to 2020-21.

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The big difference this year is the addition of the South Africans and three of their four teams have made the play-offs. Sharks and Stormers are currently third and fourth, respectively, while Bulls are sixth. The Lions are the only South African team to miss out.

Ireland is also represented by three teams in the last eight, with Munster (currently second) and Ulster (fifth) joining Munster.

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Mark Bennett scored a late try for Edinburgh to help them get a losing point against Ulster which guaranteed their place in the URC play-offs. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
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What happened to the Welsh?

It’s been a hugely disappointing campaign for the Welsh sides, with all four finishing outside the play-off places. Scarlets and Ospreys still have something to play for as they are battling it out to see who wins the Welsh Shield.

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Who will Glasgow and Edinburgh face in the last eight?

We won’t know the quarter-final ties until after the final round of league fixtures but if positions remain unchanged, the last eight would be: Leinster v Edinburgh; Munster v Glasgow; Sharks v Bulls; Stormers v Ulster.

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The tightness of the league means positions are unlikely to stay the same. Munster, Sharks and Stormers are all currently tied on 56 points, while Ulster have 55 and Bulls 53.

Glasgow and Edinburgh, both on 50 points, are guaranteed an away quarter-final in either Ireland or South Africa. It’s a tough ask for the Scottish clubs. Leinster and Munster have dominated Celtic rugby in the professional era, while a one-off game in South Africa would hugely favour the home team in terms of climate, support, travel and potentially altitude.

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Edinburgh will take some comfort in the fact they have managed to win in South Africa, defeating Sharks 21-5 in Durban in March, but the reality is that Europe may represent the Scottish sides’ best hope of glory this season.

Both are through to Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals, with Edinburgh hosting Wasps and Glasgow facing Lyon away.

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