The New Year is up and running and with the Guinness Six Nations firmly on the horizon, international stars are looking to catch the eye with their clubs before the Championship begins next month.
England’s Genge brings up 100 Tigers games
England prop and Leicester Tigers captain Ellis Genge will mark his 100th appearance for the club against Wasps as his side go in search of a 12th consecutive league win.
Steve Borthwick’s men have the chance to complete a clean sweep of all 12 other Premiership sides at the Coventry Building Society Arena and have the experience of England centurion Ben Youngs to bring off the bench.
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg travels with Exeter Chiefs to West London to face third-place Harlequins in a repeat of last season’s Premiership final.
The Devonians will be looking for revenge with the likes of England centre Henry Slade coming up against international teammates Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant and Alex Dombrandt in a mouth-watering clash.
The fifth-place Chiefs saw off Bristol Bears on New Year’s Day and Pat Lam’s side will look to bounce back from that defeat when they host Sale Sharks on Friday night.
Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy will look to pull the strings in tandem with England hopeful Harry Randall against the Sharks for whom Red Rose flanker Tom Curry returns to the starting line-up.
Bath are still searching for their first Premiership win of the season and include England Under-20s star Ewan Richards at No.7 as they host a Worcester Warriors side boasting Scottish duo Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland.
Elsewhere, several England internationals feature for Saracens against Gloucester, including Maro Itoje with Wales centre Nick Tompkins on the bench.
Tompkins’ international colleague Louis Rees-Zammit has been named as a replacement for the Cherry & Whites while Scotland coach Gregor Townsend will be tuning in to see how Adam Hasting fares wearing No.10 for George Skivington’s men.
Another international fly-half is in action at Kingston Park as Wales’ Dan Biggar makes the trip up to Newcastle with his Northampton Saints teammates.
Edinburgh eye top spot in the URC
In the United Rugby Championship, Edinburgh can leapfrog Leinster – who are not in action this weekend – into top spot with a win over Cardiff on Saturday.
Guinness Six Nations 2021 Player of the Championship Hamish Watson packs down on the openside for the hosts alongside his Scotland teammate Jamie Ritchie and they could come up against Wales’ Ellis Jenkins who is primed to feature off the bench.
Munster are aiming to avoid losing three in a row when they play Ulster at Thomond Park and welcome back experienced Ireland internationals Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo into their starting line-up.
For the visitors, Ireland and British & Irish Lions prop Jack McGrath will make his first start of the season following a lengthy 13-month stint on the sidelines.
Scotland scrum-half Ali Price captains Glasgow Warriors against Ospreys with his international colleague Fraser Brown returning to the bench after recovering from a knee injury that had kept him out since October.
Toby Booth’s side are looking to bounce back from a derby defeat to Scarlets and Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe will come up against his old Cardiff boss Danny Wilson who is now in charge at Scotstoun.
Russell and Fickou continue partnership for Racing 92
In the Top 14, Toulon against La Rochelle and Toulouse’s game against Montpellier have been postponed amid the spread of Covid-19, however there is still plenty of international interest across the channel.
Leaders Bordeaux Bègles include France flanker Cameron Woki in their starting XV for the trip to Brive, while Sekou Macalou starts at number eight for ninth-place Stade Francais as they face fourth-place Castres.
French centre Gael Fickou captains Racing 92 from inside centre, outside Scotland fly-half Finn Russell, as the tenth-place Parisians look to resurrect their domestic form against Clermont.
And full-back Melvyn Jaminet will again be the one to watch when Perpignan travel to Biarritz.