Munster v Gloucester, in my opinion, is without doubt the biggest match of another superb collection of Heineken Cup fixtures this weekend.
I cannot wait for Saturday in Limerick, I've had it underlined, ringed, highlighted, you name it, in my diary for ages. And I've got the Guinness lined up as well. Thomond Park is just a great, great place to watch rugby.
Mind you, the atmosphere at Gloucester last weekend for the teams' first encounter was something special. Sir Clive Woodward, in the Sky Sports studio, said that in all the years he had been coming to Kingsholm he had never, ever experienced quite an atmosphere - and I would endorse that.
It certainly was very, very special and what made it for me was that the whole of the ground was packed way before kick-off. Opposition fans were intermingling, there was good humour - it was just electric. Kingsholm delivered, and Thomond Park will too.
I don't like saying this, but that is how it used to be off the field. Make no mistake, I feel the action on the pitch is better than it has ever been but nowadays people tend to take their seats as late as possible, a stand is empty and suddenly full five minutes later, and sometimes you can loose something in the build-up.
|Paul: Bounced back|
He had an appalling game in Limerick, so much so that he was subbed after an hour, and it didn't help his England claims to be embarrassed on such a public stage. However, he has certainly bounced back, and I have been really enjoying watching Duncan McRae and Paul helping each other in a tremendous link-up at 10 and 12.
Paul's superb start to 2004 has seen consecutive Man of the Match performances but this is the one he really, really wants to do well in after the problems he endured in Ireland last season.
Munster have only lost once (to Cardiff in 1997/98) in the Heineken Cup at Thomond Park - it's quite a record. They were off the pace at the set piece at Kingsholm but I think their pack will bounce back - there are too many quality players in the south west of Ireland. Efforts will be trebled, quadrupled this time.
Munster coach Alan Gaffney told me this week that if they win all their remaining games they will finish top of Pool 5, despite currently trailing Gloucester by five points. He appreciates that the men from England's west country will be a different proposition this year, but if Munster win they will be well-placed, as Gloucester must travel to Bourgoin - where they will not find it easy.
Prediction: I think Munster will do it to equalise the score in their clashes with Gloucester, but it will be a compelling game of rugby and I give Gloucester a very good chance, as good as you can get at Thomond Park.
Cardiff Blues, who have come close with narrow defeats by Sale Sharks and Leinster Lions, chase their first win in 11 Heineken games and I.think they will do it against Biarritz Olympique.
Rumour of a merger with Celtic Warriors has been unsettling for the Blues, which doesn't help in a really tough group.
Prediction: Away wins are at a premium, but Biarritz are not good travellers and I take Cardiff.
Perpignan aim to keep the pressure on London Wasps and Celtic Warriors when they go to Italy to face Calvisano.
I reckon Pool 6 could go to the very last games and it's interesting that, unlike that final day when kick-offs will synchronised, Perpignan will know exactly what has happened in the Warriors-Wasps game (Friday night) when they run out on Saturday.
Prediction: Treviso pulled off a shock Italian win last week but I can't see Perpignan falling into that trap.
Agen v Llanelli - what a game. It's just so important after the Scarlets sneaked home against the French club at Stradey Park.
Llanelli have to go to Northampton in the final round of Pool 4 and their qualification hopes will rest on what they can get out of these two tough away games, as The Borders at home should be at least a four-pointer for them.
This group will come down to bonus points, it always looked like that from week one, and the Scarlets will be very keen to return with something from Stade Armandie.
Prediction: It's a hard one to call but, looking at the Llanelli team which has been selected, I go for Agen to hurt Scarlet hopes.
|Deano: Worried man|
However, I thought the Tigers would provide a much sterner test than they did. They were blown away, and the question has to be: Can they turn it round in just six days?
They have been losing at Welford Road on a regular basis and their whole season rests on this match. They have little hope of finishing in the top three of the Zurich Premiership and would surely say goodbye to the Heineken Cup if they lose this.
This match is all about Leicester and what they used to have. Dean Richards said after Sunday's defeat that they used to `bully` teams and win games - this isn't happening anymore. Another defeat would confirm that Leicester is a team in crisis.
Prediction: Ulster will think they could top Pool 1 and get a Ravenhill quarter-final if they triumph and I think they can win. Leicester have to win but Ulster beat them so comprehensively and confidently in Belfast that I feel that out-weighs the Tigers' need for victory.