Donal Lenihan believes that Connacht have put all their eggs into the Pro14 basket in a bid to qualify for next season's Heineken European Champions Cup.
Andy Friend’s team are currently third in Conference A of the Pro14 and a win over Cardiff on Saturday would be good enough to cement that position.
It would also book them a place in the competition’s knock-out stages and a coveted spot in the 2019/’20 Champions Cup.
RTÉ rugby analyst Lenihan thinks that Connacht decided that this was their best route into Europe’s premier competition next season, so they weren’t too bothered when they lost their recent Challenge Cup quarter-final to Sale.
"It’s the game of the weekend," he said, speaking about this third-versus-fourth place clash in Galway.
"I think Connacht have been building up to this match for some time and they may even have sacrificed the Challenge Cup to qualify for the Champions Cup next year through Conference A of the Pro14.
"It comes down to Connacht and Cardiff, both fighting for that third place. If Connacht win tomorrow they grasp that Champions Cup place and a qualification place for the Pro14 play-offs. It’s a massive game and it’s great to see the Sportsground absolutely jam-packed and sold out.
"I think Connacht have enough to win this game; the reward is so great for them. I think this is the day they can showcase exactly where they are right here and now."
Leinster and Munster are already through to the Pro14 play-offs, sitting first and second in Conference B and A respectively. Leinster take on Glasgow at the RDS on Saturday with Munster away to Benetton tonight.
Also on Friday night, Ulster travel to Edinburgh for another crunch clash. Ulster are second in Conference B behind Leinster and a win would seal their play-off spot.
But defeat against fourth place Edinburgh in Murrayfield would leave them scrambling with one round of regular season games remaining.
"I thought Ulster reserved their best performance of the season for that Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster; it’s a game they could have won on the day," said Lenihan, speaking to RTÉ Sport.
"They will have been disappointed after that and they failed to turn up against Glasgow last weekend. That has been the issue for Ulster for some time now, that consistency of performance.
"Edinburgh, as Munster found out in their quarter-final, is a very difficult play to go and they are a very good side. Ulster, to win this one, have to recapture the form they showed against Leinster and it’s going to be very tight for them. "