THERE is now less than a month left until Ireland and Wales start up the Guinness Six Nations, and the match between the Ospreys and the Leinster is the ideal preparation to that event.
There are internationals wherever you look in that giant United Rugby Championship clash as Justin Tipuric’s Ospreys face a Leinster side full of Irish internationals.
La Rochelle and Toulouse are going head to head in a match that pits the current holders of the Heineken Champions Cup against the 2021 champions of the competition. This match is shaping up to be a massive all-French clash.
In the Gallagher Premiership Rugby, there are a lot of intriguing contests going on all around the league between players who are trying to impress Steve Borthwick and gain a spot in his first team.
In this article, we take a look at all the important news just before a major round of domestic rugby in Europe.
Ospreys host Leinster in what looks like a Guinness Six Nations warm-up
An entire Wales front row consisting of Nicky Smith, Dewi Lake, and Tomas Francis will also play for the Ospreys. Tipuric is not the only Welsh international who will play for the Ospreys; Alun Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis will also play for Wales in the forward pack.
They will be trying to make a good impression on Warren Gatland, who was recently re-appointed as the head coach of Wales after Wayne Pivac resigned following the conclusion of the Autumn Nations Series.
They have their job cut out for them against a Leinster team that is still loaded with Ireland internationals despite the absence of Johnny Sexton due to a facial injury. They will have their hands full.
Cian Healy and Dan Sheehan will make the competition for the front row exciting. Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, and Jimmy O’Brien form an all-Irish international back three, while Jack Conan will be a difficult man for Tipuric and his back row companions to stop.
Gatland will not only be interested in watching that game, but he will also want to witness another one in which Cardiff and the Scarlets compete against each other in a significant all-Welsh matchup.
This game will be very important for Gatland and Wales supporters as Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny face off against each other. Josh Adams, Tomos Williams, and Taulupe Faletau will also be looking to secure their place in Gatland’s first squad with a win for Cardiff. The full-back position is up for grabs.
Atonio and Baille are going to have it out.
There is a definite battle that is getting all of the interest over in France, and it is a match that pits European heavyweights against one other. The match between La Rochelle and Toulouse is going to be one for the ages, and it is getting all of the attention.
The most intriguing individual matchup will take place when French Grand Slam champions Uini Atonio and Cyrile Baille square off against one another. This matchup should make for riveting watching.
The two teams will compete against one another, with Baille receiving help from France hookers Julien Marchand and Peato Mauvaka. After a few weeks, all of these players will join forces to try to win back-to-back titles with the French national team.
As the telepathic connection between Captain Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack continues to develop, Thomas Ramos will take over kicking duties from full-back, and they will be joined by a new teammate, Romain Ntamack.
Gregory Alldritt will also be on display for the hosts, but Jonathan Danty will not be because he has been ruled out for the entirety of the Guinness Six Nations with a knee injury. Gregory Alldritt will also be on display for the hosts.
Yoram Moefana, who is expected to take Danty’s place at inside centre, will be playing for Bordeaux-Begles against Bayonne. He will be accompanied on the field by Matthieu Jalibert, who has the potential to play fly half in the event that Fabien Galthié decides to play Ntamack at inside centre.
Gregor Townsend is still keeping an eye on Racing 92 and Scotland fly-half Finn Russell in their match against the French champions Montpellier. This means that Galthié will not be the only player on the team to have his sights set on the Top 14.
As a result of an injury that will prevent him from competing in the early stages of the Championship, he will not have to face the star of Italy, Paolo Garbisi.
Townsend will need to keep his eyes peeled for developments all over Europe, but notably in Edinburgh, where the Edinburgh team will face Zebre with injured players Dave Cherry and Nick Haining making their return.
Over in Glasgow, there is also some intrigue due to the fact that among the multitude of Scotland internationals that were on display against the Stormers, Matt Fagerson moved to blindside to make room for Jack Dempsey to start at No. 8. This is something that Townsend may look to replicate when Scotland plays England on February 4th.
England’s best hope lies with Rapava-Ruskin, who is leading the effort.
When it comes to England, there are a lot of things to keep an eye out for in Round 15 of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby. On January 16th, new England coach Steve Borthwick is going to name his roster for the national team.
In the match on Friday night, there are a lot of players who might get call-ups, but possibly none of them are more in form than Gloucester prop Val Rapava-Ruskin. Rapava-Ruskin has the difficult challenge of going up against Marco Riccioni, who plays for Saracens and Italy.
Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje are two of the England stars who play for Saracens and will be looking to keep their starting positions under Borthwick. Hugh Tizard and Ben Earl are two other players who will be receiving significant attention from Borthwick.
As Gloucester strives to secure a spot in the top four, players such as George McGuigan and Jonny May will also be rooting to be selected for that squad.
Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints are two other teams in the Premiership that are vying for a top-four berth, and there is also competition for a spot in Borthwick’s back row selections.
In a mouthwatering matchup between two No. 8s with contrasting playing styles, Sam Simmonds of the Chiefs takes against Lewis Ludlam of the Saints.
As third takes on second when Harlequins host Sale Sharks, and with Garbisi out for at least the first rounds, Tommy Allan will likely start at fly-half for the Azzurri, but before that, he has a mission to get Harlequins back on track. Third takes on second when Harlequins hosts Sale Sharks.
Tom Curry and Alex Dombrandt, two prospective members of Borthwick’s back row, will both be competing against each other in this match. Additionally, Manu Tuilagi will be looking to put on a show in order to compete for a position in the centres alongside Joe Marchant of Harlequins.