As the rest of Europe gets ready for the big kick-off of domestic rugby next weekend, the French Top 14 has already reached Round 3 with Toulouse setting the early pace.
After wins against Montauban and Brive, Guy Noves' three-time Heineken Cup champions will face their hardest test yet when they travel the Stade Aimé Giral on Saturday to take on the reigning French champions Perpignan in a replay of the 2005 Heineken Cup final in Dublin.
USAP, who ended a 55 year drought by beating Clermont in last season's Top 14 final, currently lie sixth position in the league having lost to Montpellier last weekend and will be hoping a win on Saturday can kick start their title defence.
In other action the 1997 Heineken Cup champions Brive will meet near neighbors Clermont Auvergne in an attractive derby. Brive lock Arnaud Mela told Midi Olympique that they must win to set up the rest of the season.
"We can't imagine losing against Clermont. There are no reasons to think that we can't beat them. It's a challenge for us and it will influence the rest of the season. Clermont are in very good form, so if we beat them at home the other teams will be scared to come here and play against Brive." said Mela.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.