The LV= Cup sees the 12 Aviva Premiership and four Welsh Pro 12 regions grouped into four pools of four, with each team playing two home and two away games. However because pools of four only mean three matches, each team plays the same teams in another pool.
In other words, each team in Pool 1 plays each team in Pool 4, meaning that results can be judged against the same opponents.
As runners-up in the Aviva Premiership last season, the Saints have been grouped in Pool 2, along with Cardiff Blues, Sale and London Irish, with the four games coming against Pool 3’s Leicester, Wasps, Scarlets and Newcastle.
After two rounds of action both Pools 2 and 3 have two teams that are closely matched at the top of their respective tables.
Saints’ wins over Newcastle and Scarlets have them on nine points, with Cardiff Blues just a point back on eight. Meanwhile Leicester top Pool 3 on nine points, with Wasps two points behind.
With Leicester hosting the Saints and Wasps taking on Cardiff Blues in Round 3, this weekend’s action could be crucial in deciding the outcome of each pool.
Should Saints beat Leicester and Cardiff lose to Wasps then Saints will have one foot in the semi-finals. But if either Saints and Cardiff both win or lose, then it will go down to the final round of pool matches.
This equation matches what will happen in Pool 3; if Leicester beat Saints and Wasps lose, then Leicester will be in the knockouts come what may. But if the Tigers and Wasps match each other’s results then that pool will also be up in the air until Round 4.
With a record LV= Cup crowd of 24,000 set to pack into Welford Road on Saturday afternoon another crunch East Midlands derby is on the way!
In Pool 1 a win for Saracens over London Welsh will put Mark McCall’s men well within reach of a semi-final spot. While in Pool 4 reigning champions Exeter Chiefs will be in touching distance of a second successive place in the knockouts with a win at Newport-Gwent Dragons.
The format may be complicated, but one thing is straightforward – winning matches is the most important thing!
The 2015 LV= Cup Final returns to the Heart of England this spring, with Franklin’s Gardens hosting the first showpiece occasion in this, the biggest year of English rugby, on Sunday, March 22nd. Tickets are on sale now from £10; book online 24/7 at www.tinyurl.com/LVFinal2015