Glasgow Warriors host Zebre and Munster welcome Isuzu Southern Kings to Irish Independent Park this evening, with a Valentine’s Day double-date on offer for rugby fans.
A number of players will be returning to their clubs after playing for their countries in the first two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations, and Ireland coach Andy Farrell has challenged members of his side to deliver the goods while away from the international scene.
The hosting of the Kings will be Munster’s first match since missing out on Champions Cup qualification, but prop John Ryan believes his side can make the most of a bad situation, and now kick on domestically.
Friday will also be a momentous day for Isuzu Southern Kings’ No.8 Ruaan Lerm, who will be celebrating his 50th appearance for the club, and the 27-year-old has been reflecting on his three years in Port Elizabeth.
On Saturday, Ulster face a trip to Conference A bottom side Ospreys, and will be looking to strengthen their position in the top three when they travel to Wales.
Dan McFarland will be boosted by the return of players such as Billy Burns and Stuart McCloskey from Guinness Six Nations duty, and scrum-half Dave Shanahan believes the international players help to lead by example in the Ulster camp.
Leinster will have 11 players away with the Ireland squad as they welcome Toyota Cheetahs to the RDS Arena, as they look to maintain their unbeaten record this season.
It will be a test of the depth of Leo Cullen’s side, but lock Ross Molony believes they have enough quality in the ranks that can step up and perform this weekend.
Thursday also saw a momentous day for Connacht, who tied down five players to new contracts which extend to the end of the 2020/21 season.
Centres Tom Daly and Peter Robb have seen their deals lengthened, as well as hooker Shane Delahunt and props Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Conor Kenny.
Dragons’ match with Benetton may have fallen foul of the winds, but former Wales scrum-half Tavis Knoyle has spoken of his desire to stay at the region past the season’s end.
The 29-year-old’s contract is up at the end of the current campaign, and he is hoping to impress director of rugby Dean Ryan to extend his time at Rodney Parade beyond May.