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Which Irish province has the biggest game in the weekend ahead?

There is a lot at stake in two competitions for our four provinces. Which one will you refuse to miss?

NECESSARY POSTPONEMENTS HAVE forced European Rugby into a rare scenario this weekend. They will mix their fixtures in with a schedule that already includes domestic games in England, France and the Pro12.

As a result, two Irish teams are in European action this weekend while two are focused on the league. Ordinarily, it would be clear which competition holds precedence, but in the scheme of a season these Pro12 fixtures could tilt the balance for the victors.

Which of these games will be absolutely unmissable for you this weekend?

Ospreys v Leinster (Friday 19.45, Sky Sports)

Ospreys haven’t quite been able to live up to the mantle of Leinster’s bogey team for some time now. However it remains over five years since the Blues managed a Pro12 win in Swansea and Ospreys have been making fast progress up the table of late.

Isa Nacewa and Dominic Ryan Dominic Ryan's beard game is stong. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Since their back-to-back losses at home to Connacht and away to Glasgow, Steve Tandy’s men have put five consecutive wins together and currently sit seventh in the table, one place above the reigning champions.

Leinster have gone one better in the league, winning six Pro12 games in a row in the same period that their European hopes were well and truly quashed. This is now officially the only tournament to focus on for Leo Cullen’s squad, so they will be keen to stretch the seven-point lead over a Welsh region who could trouble them if they reached the league’s knock-out stage.

Stade Francais v Munster (Saturday 16.45 Sky Sports)

Anthony Foley’s men only had one win to shout about in the first half of Champions Cup pool games and that was at home to Treviso.

Fortunately, the two-time champions still have a chance to progress as they face the Italians again after back-to-back encounters with Stade Francais.

CJ Stander Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The Parisiens will have been lifted by the weekend home win over Toulouse. However, as they sit 11th in the Top14, Stade may hold this competition and these clashes with Munster as less than their highest priority.

With just five points to their name with three games to go, the southern province really need three wins to give them a shot at qualification. The disappointing days against Leicester must be put behind them to achieve that and keep their continental campaign alive.


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Oyonnax v Ulster (Sunday 13.00, Sky Sports)

Like Munster and Leinster, Ulster fell foul of Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup. Unlike their provincial rivals however, Les Kiss’ men bounced back in stunning fashion to trounce Toulouse at home and entertain their way to victory away.

Neil Doak Backs coach Neil Doak has been weaving some brilliant patterns over the past month. Source: Presseye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Those performances mean that they can conceivably qualify for the quarter-finals without needing to get anything from their trip to Saracens next weekend – as long as they secure maximum points over two games against Oyonnax.

The French side in their first year in the competition suffered heavy defeats home and away to Sarries after losing in Toulouse and sit with a single point in Pool 1. Ulster’s revival took a hit last Saturday when they slipped to defeat at home to Munster, but on a hard track in France their high-tempo style should be too much for the Top 14′s 13th team.

Scarlets v Connacht (Sunday 14.30, TG4)

Last, but never ever least, Connacht face off against the team who denied them a Champions Cup place last season. Unfortunately for Pat Lam, they just so happen to be the current league leaders.

Eoin McKeon, Robbie Henshaw, John Cooney and Darragh Leader Eoin McKeon, Robbie Henshaw, John Cooney and Darragh Leader go through their paces in training this week.

Connacht though could re-assume that mantle themselves if they win in Parc y Scarlets and Leinster fail to win in Swansea.

Neither of the early-season surprise packages have been in great form of late: Connacht’s growing injury troubles have clearly not helped and the Westerners have not won in the Pro12 since the momentous night in Thomond Park in November. Scarlets have not fared a whole lot better though, beating only Zebre and Treviso in their five games since the World Cup ended.

A win for either side would be a huge momentum gain in the quest towards their season’s goals of finishing in the top six, and would also leave them in the best possible position to make the play-offs too.

Which do you think is the biggest game this weekend?

Poll Results:

Stade v Munster (1569)
Scarlets v Connacht (757)
Oyonnax v Ulster (344)
Ospreys v Leinster (266)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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