The international players are back at their clubs and so is the Premiership, and in this blockbuster weekend of games we have the hottest match-up of the season so far.
Chiefs vs Saracens
There is no love lost between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens. Tony Rowe was shouting from the rooftops about Sarries deserving relegation after they were found to have broken the salary cap.
Some Exeter fans believe the trophies Saracens won against them, in seasons they were deemed to have broken the cap, should be ruled illegitimate. There’s real venom in this one.
The Chiefs, however, are struggling with their identity – ironically – and their flow. They’re beginning to find some form but it hasn’t quite been clicking thus far.
Yes, some of the rule changes have hurt them in areas they saw as strengths, and their playing style isn’t always attractive, but they’re a team who know how to win when it matters.
Saracens have served their time and are back as if nothing has happened, on course for the home semi-final places already.
The internationals within their squad are turning out every week; Billy Vunipola was so good last weekend against Sale Sharks.
Under coach Mark McCall, they look so sturdy – unplayable at times.
This match is sure to be epic, and at Sandy Park the playing conditions will be paramount in any victory.
This is the biggest game of the season so far, the grudge match. The one fans really care about. It should be a cracker.
Tigers vs Champions
It’s not just in the West Country where we’ve got brilliant ties this weekend as top-of-the-table Leicester Tigers host champions Harlequins.
Let’s hope we get to see George Ford and Marcus Smith go head-to-head
Ford has been there and done it, earned his stripes as a top performer in the league. Smith isn’t too far behind, albeit younger, and has propelled himself onto the scene. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with the pressure of returning as a superstar following his England exploits.
Away from the field, Leicester have been a lesson to us all in the importance of forming a tight-knit group.
Coach Kevin Sinfield recently completed 101 miles in 24 hours to raise money for motor neurone disease, and Tigers’ strength and conditioning coach has done a long series of half-marathons in aid of hooker Tom Young’s seriously ill wife. Other players have joined in too.
When a team bond like Leicester have done, they find that extra one per cent on the field.
Youngs said to the squad this week that while the winning means a lot, it’s the way the Tigers squad are playing for each other that’s impressive. It’s a brilliant message for us all.
Off-field issues have marred the United Rugby Championship over the last week. That said, I cannot wait to see the South African sides in next year’s two European competitions.
Yes the flight isn’t ideal but a nice four-day trip to the country to watch your team would be amazing.
And imagine the likes of Gloucester hosting the Bulls on a Friday night at Kingsholm: it would be electric.
When all is said and done, however, I think the French sides will be victorious. I don’t see how the likes of Toulouse don’t make it to the end.
They are basically France personified, they’re so dangerous.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership, development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn