Round five of the European Challenge Cup holds much promise for teams in the Guinness PRO12, with three teams hopeful of moving into pole position in their group as the knock-out stages move into sight.
Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh Rugby and have glorious chances to take control of Pool 4 and Pool 5 respectively, while Ospreys can cement their place at the top of Pool 2 on what is set to be a thrilling weekend.
Forward power holds key for Edinburgh
Edinburgh and Harlequins meet at The Stoop on Saturday with Pool 5 on the line, and the Scottish side have received a timely boost with the return of WP Nel.
The Scottish prop has been out of action since October with a neck injury.
But he comes into the Edinburgh front row in one of just two changes to their pack – which also sees Hamish Watson start on the openside flank.
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) January 13, 2017
Edinburgh sit two points behind Harlequins at the top of the group and, while three second-placed teams will make it through to the next stage, it is not a chance they want to take.
Nel partners Ross Ford and Allan Dell up front, while Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland and Tom Brown – who all scored in the reverse fixture – make up the back row.
Cuthbert on bench for must-win clash
Cardiff Blues visit Pau on Saturday and will hope to rack up a big score in a must-win match, but they will have to do so without Alex Cuthbert starting on the wing.
The British & Irish Lion is on the bench for the trip to France despite scoring two tries in his last three matches, as the Blues go in search of their fourth win in the competition.
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) January 13, 2017
Pau are already out but have still fielded a strong side, making this match potentially tricky for Cardiff – who sit level on points with Bath Rugby at the top of the pool.
Steven Shingler moves from fly-half to centre, with Nicky Robinson is in at ten, while captain Gethin Jenkins, Josh Turnbull and Dan Fish remain on the sidelines.
Giles back to face Lyon
Keelan Giles has taken the Guinness PRO12 by storm this season and the winger is back from a shoulder injury against the side which he scored his first hat-trick against – Olympique Lyonnais.
— Ospreys (@ospreys) January 13, 2017
The Ospreys speedster has been out with a shoulder injury but will line up for the Welsh side – who have won all four of their matches so far and sit comfortably top of the group.
Dan Biggar starts at fly-half at the Liberty Stadium as he steps up his preparation for the RBS 6 Nations next month, while Sam Davies drops to the bench.
Jones desperate to take chance for Dragons
Dorian Jones has waited patiently for his first start this season, and the Newport Gwent Dragons fly-half has the nod at ten for their Challenge Cup clash with Russian side Enisei-STM.
The Welsh side are seeking revenge this weekend after they lost 38-18 in Krasnodar in October’s reverse fixture.
— NewportGwentDragons (@dragonsrugby) January 12, 2017
The Dragons sit joint second with Friday’s opponents behind Brive at the top of the pile, and the result will go a long way to deciding who finishes in the top two.
Kingsley Jones’ side need the full five points if they are to keep their chances of reaching the last eight alive.
Centre Adam Hughes makes his first competitive start of the season, while hooker T. Rhys Thomas returns from a leg injury.
Treviso need win to keep hopes alive
Benetton Treviso sit third in their Challenge Cup pool meaning Saturday’s clash with Premiership side Gloucester Rugby is regarded as a must-win if they are to have any chance of making the next stage.
Gloucester, second in Pool 1, sit seven points clear of Treviso but Italy is a notoriously difficult place to visit – and the hosts have named a strong side.
— Benetton Rugby (@BenettonRugby) January 13, 2017
Italian internationals Luke McLean and Tommy Allan will be looking to use all of their creativity and craft to break Gloucester’s defence down – while the forward power of Tiziano Pasquali, Ornel Gega and Federico Zani is vital.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final