There are six huge European ties on the horizon for seven Guinness PRO14 teams this weekend as the Champions Cup group stages draw closer to a climax.
Leinster and Munster both lead the way in their pools while Scarlets and Ulster are still very much in contention to grab a quarter-final spot.
Glasgow Warriors and Benetton both face tricky away trips while Ospreys will be looking to upset the double European Champions Saracens.
Bath Rugby v Scarlets
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Back to back victories in rounds three and four have brought Scarlets right back into the running in Pool Five with the chance to make a real statement this weekend.
A win over the current group leaders Bath would move the Guinness PRO14 champions into top spot if only until RC Toulon welcome Benetton to France.
Leigh Halfpenny and Johnny McNicholl have both failed late fitness tests for the Scarlets with Rhys Patchell now at full-back and Tom Prydie comes onto the left wing.
Head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We’re really looking forward to the occasion. It’s a must win game for both sides. We both know that. It’s like a knock-out game in itself.”
Ulster v La Rochelle
Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Ulster will be looking to avenge their heaviest ever European defeat, suffered in Round Two against La Rochelle, on Sunday as the French club head to Ireland for the first time in this competition.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) January 12, 2018
The Irish side can move to the top of Pool One with a win on Saturday ahead of travelling to Coventry to face Wasps in Round Six.
Craig Gilroy and Louis Ludik return to the Ulster backline with Christian Lealiifano playing in his final home game before returning to Australia.
Charles Piutau, who leads the metres made charts in the Champions Cup, is named at full-back while Alan O’Connor is in the second row and Rory Best leads the side from hooker.
Ospreys v Saracens
Venue: Liberty Stadium
The Ospreys are very much in contention, second in Pool Two, but need a victory over the reigning European champions Saracens to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
Clermont Auvergne are four from four in Pool 2 and would seal their knockout spot with a win over Northampton Saints this weekend. Ospreys face the French side in Round Six.
Will Jones will make his European debut if he comes off the bench with Alun Wyn Jones set to lead the Ospreys out from the second row.
Ospreys come into Saturday’s game having won back-to-back Champions Cup matches for the first time since 2011 and have Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar as their half-back pairing.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often. It’s huge.”
— Ospreys (@ospreys) January 10, 2018
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
Venue: RDS Arena
This all Guinness PRO14 tie sees the leaders of Conference A take on a Leinster side who are yet to lose a game in the Champions Cup this season.
The Irish side have conceded the fewest penalties in the competition to date, just 29, while the Warriors have been the joint worst offenders (with Ospreys and Saracens) with 49.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) January 12, 2018
Leinster are looking to win their first five games in the Champions Cup for the first time since 2004/05 with Jordan Larmour and James Lowe both handed their first European starts.
The Warriors have been unable to put their Guinness PRO14 form into Europe to date with four defeats but welcome George Turner back into the front row for their trip to Dublin.
RC Toulon v Benetton Rugby
Venue: Stade Felix Mayol
Kick-off: 2pm (local time)
Benetton’s tough group on paper as turned out to be exactly that and they sit bottom and without a win in Pool Five after the opening four rounds.
And though there are few trickier places to pick a win on the road than the Stade Felix Mayol, the Italians can take heart from their narrow one-point defeat to Toulon in Round Two.
Benetton average 138 carries per game in Europe this season but of the four teams to have managed more one is Toulon who average 155 carries.
Victory over the Toyota Cheetahs last week will have boosted the Italians’ confidence and Alessandro Zanni will make his 50th appearance in this competition if he comes off the bench.
Racing 92 v Munster
Venue: U Arena
Kick-off: 4.15pm (local time)
Munster have progressed nicely in this ‘Pool of Death’ to date with three wins and a draw away in Castres from their opening four rounds.
Head Coach Johann van Graan looks ahead to Sunday’s clash against Racing 92 with the French side in fine form ahead of the clash after a 58-6 win over Clermont last weekend.#R92vMUN #SUAF pic.twitter.com/RV70YdOVx5
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) January 12, 2018
They sit top of the group and a win away at Racing 92 will all-but secure progression into the quarter-finals with a game still to play.
Billy Holland and Stephen Archer, who signed new contracts with Munster this week, both start in France with Peter O’Mahony and Chris Cloete also recalled.
Simon Zebo completes an all-international backline for Munster as he faces the club for which he will be playing for next season.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie