The final round of the pool stages of European club rugby provided the perfect backdrop to the impending Guinness Six Nations.
The high stakes affairs as sides desperately fought for their places in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competitions led to some outstanding performances from players hoping to represent their country in just two weeks’ time.
Here, we look at the five players who were particularly impressive and put their hands up to their onlooking national coaches.
Jac Morgan (Ospreys and Wales)
Morgan was among the bright sparks in a difficult Autumn Nations Series campaign for Wales with a series of commanding displays on both sides of the ball.
He was once again a standout performer at Mattioli Woods Welford Road as Ospreys sealed a last gasp 27-26 victory over Leicester Tigers thanks to Morgan’s try.
It was the first time since 2010 that the Swansea-based side have qualified, backing up consecutive wins over Montpellier by becoming the first Welsh region to defeat Tigers at their usually impenetrable home.
Newly-returned Wales head coach Warren Gatland will have been pleased with the form of several of his country’s stars, none more so than Morgan, who was awarded player of the match.
Only Keelan Giles made more metres than Morgan, who made 13 carries, two clean breaks and 15 tackles before capping off a breath-taking performance with a match-winning try.
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs and England)
Henry Slade was handed the captaincy by Rob Baxter for the visit of Castres to Sandy Park and thrived on the responsibility.
The outside centre cruised over for one of six Chiefs tries as they booked a home knockout tie, which will be music to the ears of a player who has now scored in four home games in a row.
The make-up of Steve Borthwick’s midfield has been the topic of much debate and will continue to be ahead of England’s opener against Scotland.
Slade’s performance at the weekend was therefore a timely reminder of his silky skill set and the Exeter man looks set to be in pole position to start at 13 in the Calcutta Cup clash.
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster and Ireland)
Any one of Leinster’s 14 Ireland squad members in the starting XV could have been included after an impressive 36-10 victory over Racing 92, but it was winger Jimmy O’Brien that perhaps stood out the most.
The 26-year-old winger made his Ireland debut in the Autumn Nations Series and after scoring a double in Leinster’s bonus point win at the Aviva Stadium, he may well be in line for more.
Andy Farrell prefers wingers who are capable of more than just scoring tries and O’Brien’s 16 carries, three clean breaks and two offloads showed the many strings to his bow, highlighted by his try assist with a sumptuous offload for Hugo Keenan’s second.
O’Brien will have strong competition from the likes of Mack Hansen and James Lowe but he could hardly have done more to put himself in the mix.
Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle and France)
France No.8 Gregory Alldritt enjoyed a fine 2022 with Guinness Six Nations and Champions Cup glory and warmed up for the defence of France’s crown with a fine display at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.
A remarkable 19 carries, 44 metres and two offloads gave the European champions excellent front foot ball as they sealed a home last 16 tie with a 31-13 win over hosts Northampton Saints.
Alldritt’s influence all over the field could scarcely be missed and he sealed his side’s victory with their third try.
Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh and Scotland)
Edinburgh were at their very best as they edged Saracens out 20-14 at the Dam Health Stadium to continue their excellent European form.
Gregor Townsend will have been delighted with the display from a side featuring a whole host of Scotland stars and one of them, Pierre Schoeman, picked up the player of the match award.
The powerful prop showed just what he can do coming into the Guinness Six Nations as he made 41 metres from 21 carries as well as scoring the try that all but sealed victory for the home side.
He is a shoo-in to be included in the matchday 23 but with a performance like this, he may well have convinced Townsend he is worth a start.