Aviva Premiership: Champions Cup places up for grabs on final day

Who will win the race for Champions Cup qualification? Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Heading into the final round of the 2017-18 Aviva Premiership regular season, the race for the top four and the fight against relegation have already been settled.

You would be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that this weekend presented a damp squib of a fixture list with little to play. You would be wrong, however.

Fifth-placed Leicester Tigers, for example, have a scrap on their hands as they bid to avoid missing out on European Cup qualification for the first time.

At the bottom another proud club, Harlequins, are in danger of finishing in their lowest position since they returned to the top flight in 2006. In short, there is plenty to play for on the final day.

Top four

The identity of the four semifinalists was decided last weekend as Newcastle and Wasps both won to join top-seeds Exeter and Saracens in the playoffs.

However, while Exeter are guaranteed to finish first and Saracens second -- meaning they will both have a home semifinal on May 19 -- neither know whether it will be the Falcons or Wasps who they face.

It is fitting then that those two sides meet at Kingston Park on the regular season's final day. The maths are pretty simple -- if Newcastle win then they will leapfrog Wasps and play Saracens away in a fortnight.

The visitors -- who begin play three points ahead of the Falcons -- need victory if they are to avoid a semifinal trip to the south west of England.

Should the two sides end Saturday night locked on the same number of points -- i.e. if Newcastle win without a try bonus-point and Wasps earn a losing one -- then the Falcons would finish third as they have won more games than their counterparts this season.

Top six / Champions Cup qualification

Four teams -- Gloucester, Leicester, Sale and Bath -- head into the final round of games with a chance of ending the season inside the top six.

Sixth-placed Gloucester are assured of their place in next season's Champions Cup having reached the Challenge Cup final, where they will face the Cardiff Blues -- who have qualified via the PRO14 -- but how they get on this weekend is crucial. Should they lose at Saracens to drop down the league then the remaining three clubs will effectively be in a battle for two European spots.

Leicester travel to Sale on Saturday needing just a solitary point to be sure of joining the Cherry and Whites at Europe's top table as their hosts are four points below them having won two fewer games.

If they are to seal a top-six place then the Sharks must beat Leicester and hope that Gloucester lose. If the Cherry and Whites win then Sale will have to beat the Tigers with a bonus point, while denying their visitors one of their own.

Bath enter the final round with the least chance of gatecrashing the Champions Cup party.

However, they would finish inside the top six if they beat London Irish at home with a bonus point, while Leicester defeat Sale and Gloucester lose by more than seven points in north London.

If that scenario played out then Bath and Gloucester would be level on points and wins, but the former possess a much healthier points difference and would therefore sneak above them and into the top six.

Bottom four

London Irish's relegation was confirmed last weekend but the three places above them can all change.

Ninth-placed Northampton go into the final round on 38 points, while Harlequins a position below and second-bottom Worcester are locked on 36.

It means Harlequins could end the season in their lowest league position -- 11th -- since 2006 should they lose at home to Exeter and the result of the Saints' clash with Worcester go against them.

A third win in four for the Warriors would lift the Sixways outfit into the top 10 and above the two proud clubs.