Last weekend witnessed all four provinces winning at the top table in Europe on the same weekend since January 2014 and it wasn't without its drama.

A former team-mate of mine, Conor Fitzgerald kicked Connacht to victory in what will go down as one of the special European matches at the Sportsground against very tough opposition in Montpellier, while Leinster, without hitting top gear, were too strong for Treviso.

Ulster survived a last minute burst at the line with some outstanding defending from Jacob Stockdale late on and Munster left it until the 84th minute to grab a bonus point victory away from home in Swansea against the Ospreys.

All four provinces will now face French opposition to try to build on these wins.

Leinster will go into a significantly tougher game away from home against Lyon while Ulster host Clermont,

Former Munster players Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo return to Thomond Park

Munster will host Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan and the rest of the Racing team and Connacht will travel to Toulouse.

Those type of fixtures are what European days are all about. Tough encounters against French opposition are where a lot of standout memories come from in the history of the competition.

Who can go to France and come away with points to put them in a favourable position to qualify for the knock out stages?

What strikes me is that the provinces are always so strong in Europe. Not consistently at the same time, but quite often are at least two of the teams thriving and with Connacht back in the mix it bodes well for Irish rugby.

Ironically this comes at the same time that Irish rugby didn’t hit the heights expected of them at the most recent World Cup.

Understandably, the provinces are full of internationals because we have only four professional teams and with the directives informally stating that Irish players must play in Ireland to receive international recognition.

They have been boosted by some foreign signings as well which puts them in a good enough position to compete in the Champions Cup.

Irish teams tend to punch above their weight in Europe's premier club competition with an Irish team being four of the last last 10 finals, and in one of those finals it was an all Irish affair when Ulster took on Leinster.

The difference between the Irish national team and the Irish provinces at the moment is how they are playing the game in terms of game plan and freedom to throw passes

Considering what they are up against in the powerful French and English leagues it is a remarkable achievement.

The difference between the Irish national team and the Irish provinces at the moment is how they are playing the game in terms of game plan and freedom to throw passes.

Watching Munster at the weekend, it was clear that they are beginning to run at space more than looking for contact and they are looking for offloads as well, thought it must be said that Ospreys were below par and were missing some vital players.

It would have been an opportunity missed if Joahnn van Graan's side didn’t follow through with a bonus point victory.

The real test will be this weekend when they host Racing in Thomond Park who are full of stars and will control the tackle line with power, pace and trickery with key decision makers more than capable of opening up the game on their own.

A tougher Saturday evening awaits this weekend.

Some Irish players have bounced back impressively since the World Cup disappointment.

Keith Earls showed his finishing prowess with a crafty finish in the left corner keeping his feet from touching the white wash, Peter O’ Mahony and CJ Stander were back to their destructive best and Andrew Conway demonstrated his electric pace with a fine finish after some of Jeremy Loughman’s handy work in the loose which aided his award of player of the match.

Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick for Leinster and Johnny Sexton also got himself on the score sheet.

These moments will help to soften the blow of the last few weeks and bring the enjoyment back for our internationals. It might take another couple of wins and time to completely help them to get over the disappointment in Japan, but being able to express themselves, score some tries and get on the right side of the result will certainly help them along the way.

Last week I went conservative with at least two of the four teams winning but this time round I think we’ll be lucky to have two victories.

Hopefully the magic of the European Cup will prove me wrong, but we are up against it.