As the Six Nations takes a week off attention turns back to the domestic leagues in Europe, as we get ready to break down the action.
The majority of Europe’s top stars remained wrapped up in cotton wool but (incredibly) some of those playing for their country last weekend are back in action – we’re looking at you, Ross Moriarty.
Let’s take a look at the weekend’s match-ups.
Gloucester v Saracens
Sticking with Moriarty, the Welsh international starts on Friday in the back row as the Cherry and Whites look to come up against a weakened Saracens coming off one of their worst performances in recent memory with last weekend’s defeat at Worcester Warriors.
The good news for Saracens (and by extension England) is that Mako Vunipola is back from injury to start in an extended fitness Test before he potentially returns for the Six Nations clash with Italy.
Gloucester, ninth going in the weekend, are seven points off the Champions Cup places and need to make up ground fast if they want to secure one of those lucrative spots for the next season. Saracens equally will be expected to respond following last weekend’s slip-up. The stage is set, and we’re backing Saracens by seven points.
Other Premiership predictions:
Bath v Harlequins: Bath by six
Leicester Tigers v Bristol: Leicester by 13
Worcester Warriors v Exeter Chiefs: Exeter by 6
Sale Sharks v Wasps: Wasps by 12
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints: Falcons by 3
Ospreys v Munster
Second hosting first, both separated by a point, makes this the pick of the bunch when it comes to the weekend’s domestic fixtures and much will no doubt hinge on the fact that Nicky Smith, Rhodri Jones, Scott Baldwin, Rory Thornton, James King, Olly Cracknell and most important of all Sam Davies have been made available to play.
Munster appear to be less fortunate in that regard but they were outstanding against the Dragons, with Jaco Taute in top form and the fact is even without Conor Murray, CJ Stander et al, Munster have a strong XV.
Therefore expect a tight battle, and nothing like the 33-0 result from last November when the Ospreys travelled to Irish Independent Park. Munster by five.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Leinster v Edinburgh: Leinster by 9
Scarlets v Zebre: Scarlets by 10
Cardiff Blues v Treviso: Blues by 12
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors: Ulster by 6
Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons: Connacht by 10
Montpellier v Toulouse
Sunday’s final match is the pick of the bunch this weekend in France, when Montpellier host Toulouse in a battle between third and sixth with both teams separated by just four points.
The problem here for Toulouse is that this is the start of a tricky run of matches on the road, including trips to UBB, Toulon and Castres over the next two months.
Nemani Nadolo is set to miss out, which is a bonus for Ugo Mola and his team given the Fijian’s brilliant form, but they will need to step up having fallen flat last time out in a 20-10 defeat away to Pau. Montpellier by six.
Other Top 14 predictions:
La Rochelle v Stade Français: La Rochelle by 9
Clermont Auvergne v Bayonne: Clermont by 12
Pau v Grenoble: Pau by 6
Racing 92 v Brive: Racing by 8
Toulon v Lyon: Toulon by 7
Bordeaux-Bègles v Castres: UBB by 6