The Six Nations finished two weeks ago but the tournament remains relevant as we head into the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup this weekend.
The relationship between club sides and their countries is an interesting one and it’s born out when looking at the fixtures for Europe’s premier club competition.
Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam but have no representatives in the Champions Cup, while by contrast Ireland, who endured a disappointing tournament, have three of the eight sides.
Similarly, France, who are going through an identity crisis on the international stage, have their two best sides facing off on Sunday because their system seems to place winning above developing players.
It’s a club-first set-up where success and financial reward are the driving factors, not necessarily playing for your country.
Welsh players, apart from Saracens’ Liam Williams, will be watching on from the sidelines this weekend and perhaps that reflects the well-documented problems in their domestic game.
A merger between Scarlets and Ospreys has been floated to try and increase the quality of the regions, while the 60 cap rule, whereby if you have fewer than 60 caps you will not be picked for Wales if you play outside the country, was brought in to try and retain the best players.
Tough questions must be asked because, despite Wales’s recent success, ultimately you need a vibrant club game to ensure continuity internationally.
The first of the games on Saturday promises to be a cracker, with Edinburgh hosting Munster. The Irish side are always well-supported away from home, so I’m sure there will be a big atmosphere at Murrayfield.
Munster were flying before the Six Nations and will contain plenty of Irish players out to prove a point after their disappointment, but I think it’s a great opportunity for Edinburgh.
The Scottish team have been the surprise package in the Champions Cup this year and have momentum, so I’m backing them to cause an upset and make the semi-finals.
Later Saracens host Glasgow and I can only see a home win. Sarries didn’t play well against Harlequins last weekend, but still won and haven’t been beaten at Allianz Park for over a year.
Home advantage is an even bigger factor in Europe and I think it will help decide all four fixtures this weekend.
Leinster may be full of stars fighting for form, but even with Johnny Sexton not playing like a world player of the year they’re still European maestros. I think their high calibre will see them past Ulster on Saturday.
Finally, Racing 92 host Toulouse in the all-French occasion on Sunday and they’ll be delighted to have Finn Russell back at No10 after a wobble in that position.
Racing are completely geared towards the Champions Cup and I expect them to be too strong for Toulouse.
If the quarter-finals go with my predictions then we’ll be left with a nicely balanced last four, with Scotland, England, Ireland and France all having one horse in the race.
First, let’s see if any of the away sides can spring a surprise.