Somehow, we got there.

After what was undoubtedly a stressful week at the EPCR headquarters in Switzerland, gameday has arrived. Two of the 12 games have been completed, with Harlequins edging out Cardiff and Munster, courtesy of a late Gavin Coombes try, edging out Castres to make it three wins from three. That success secures Johann van Graan's side a place in the knockout stage.

Leinster, Connacht and Ulster will now be hoping to take big steps towards a place in the last 16 of the competition, and they may even qualify for the knockout stage with a game to spare if a collection of results go their way.

For Leinster, a win of any kind is imperative, with Leo Cullen's side coming off the back of a five-week lay-off since their last outing, a result of four consecutive Covid-related cancellations and postponements. They take on Montpellier on Sunday afternoon having had to concede a 28-0 walkover to the French side last month.

Connacht welcome the Leicester Tigers to the Sportsground on Saturday, a few weeks on from rattling their cage at Welford Road in Round 2. Steve Borthwick's Tigers saw their 15-game unbeaten run ended by Wasps last weekend in the Premiership, adding another layer of intrigue to this fascinating clash of styles.

Ulster are the last of the Irish sides to play on Sunday afternoon, with Dan McFarland's side away to the Northampton Saints. The 1999 champions were hugely disappointing in the second half of last week's defeat to Munster, but will hope to park those frustrations as they aim for a third win in a row in Europe, in spite of a hefty injury list.

TV

All games are live on BT Sport.

RADIO

Connacht v Leicester Tigers live on RTÉ Radio 1.

ONLINE

RTE.ie/sport will have live scoring and blogs with match reports and reaction from the grounds.

WEATHER

Conditions in Galway are expected to be relatively benign for the visit of Leicester, with temperatures of around 7c and a light wind, although there is the possibility of rain. Leinster are expected to have a dry track to work with on Sunday at the RDS, with clear skies forecast and temperatures around 6-8c, while conditions are likely to be similar in Northampton later that day when Ulster take on the Saints.



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MATCH REPORT


Their first duel at Welford Road lived up to the hype, with Leicester's methodical kicking and physicality outlasting Connacht's freewheeling gunslingers.

Expect the rematch to follow similar lines, with neither side expected to deviate from their traditional style.

While they were beaten on that day Connacht will have taken huge belief in the way they cut Leicester open in attack, and the losing bonus point they claimed could be invaluable down the stretch of this pool stage.

Having seen their Christmas Interpro against Ulster postponed, their dogged win against Munster on New Year's Day will have been the perfect preparation for another go at the Premiership leaders.

"It will be very similar," said Connacht head coach Andy Friend this week.

"They play a very similar game-style (Leicester and Munster), there's a lot of contestable kicking, a big pack coming at you from scrum and from maul, they like to win penalties and kick three points or kick to the corner, so very, very similar on that front."

When the sides met in December, Leicester were beginning to cling onto their previous unbeaten record this season, and it ultimately ended on 15 games last weekend against Wasps in the Premiership. While that loss may show some vulnerability, it's also likely to release a bit of steam from the pressure cooker for the two-time champions who are targeting a top seed after two wins from two so far.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki , Matt Healy; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham; Oisín Dowling, Niall Murray; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Tietie Tuimauga, Jack Aungier, Ultan Dillane, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell

Leicester Tigers: Bryce Hegarty; Freddie Steward, Matt Scott, Juan Pablo Socino, Kini Murimurivalu; Freddie Burns, Richard Wigglesworth; Ellis Genge (Capt), Nic Dolly, Joe Heyes; Harry Wells, Calum Green; Ollie Chessum, Tommy Reffell Jasper Wiese

Replacements: Charlie Clare, James Whitcombe, Nephi Leatigaga, Tom Manz, Francois van Wyk, Jack van Poortvliet, Dan Kelly, Hosea Saumaki,

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)


It's incredible to think that Leinster's last game of rugby was in Round 1 of this competition back in February. Leo Cullen's side weren't at their best despite a comfortable dismantling of Bath.

Since then they have had a Covid-19 outbreak, followed by further United Rugby Championship postponements, making it four games in a row that have either been cancelled or rescheduled.

Sunday's clash at the RDS is not just crucial for Leinster's season, it's also vital for Ireland head coach Andy Friend, with so many of his team needing game time as we approach the Six Nations.

The form book would point to a Leinster win, and a comfortable one at that; Leo Cullen's side have won their last 15 home pool matches by an average of 26 points. Montpellier have lost nine away games in a row in this competition, and have won just once in their last 19 on the road.

Their past meetings would also favour Leinster, who have won five of the seven previous encounters, not including the 28-0 walkover given to Montpellier last month.

Montpellier have sent a weakened team to Dublin with15 changes from their last league outing at the end of December.

Drogheda native Karl Martin starts for the French side, the 19-year-old joining Saint Andre's side last year having missed out on a place in Leinster's academy.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O'Brien; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, James Ryan (capt); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Ed Byrne, Michael Ala'alatoa, Rhys Ruddock, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Johnny Sexton, James Lowe

Montpellier: Axel Bevia; Pierre Lucas, Thomas Darmon, Karl Martin, Josua Vici; Louis Foursans, Gela Aprasidze; Mikheil Nariashvili, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Henry Thomas; Tyler Duguid, Mickael Capelli; Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Florian Verhaeghe, Marco Tauleigne

Replacements: Vincent Giudicelli, Robert Rodgers, Titi Lamositele, lexandre Becognee, Aubin Eymeri, Paul Vallée, Nico Janse van Rensburg, Zach Mercer

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)


Everything had been going so well for Ulster until the 19th minute of their first meeting with Northampton in December.

Ethan McIlroy had crossed for their third try to make it 19-6, but a Stuart McCloskey injury took the wind out of their sails. Iain Henderson picked up a knock later in the game, as they limped home to a 27-22 victory.

Since then, they've been hit with a Covid-19 outbreak which led to two Christmas Interpro games being postponed, and on their return to action last week they let a 13-6 lead slip against against Munster, despite having a man advantage for much of the game.

On top of that, they were hit with injuries to John Cooney, who has been ruled out of Sunday's Round 3 game.

Northampton were dismal in their opening defeat to Racing 92, but despite an awful start against Ulster they showed enormous fight to come away with a losing bonus point, giving themselves a puncher's chance of a last 16 place.

Ulster can take heart from previous visits to Franklin's Gardens, winning a thriller 35-27 in last season's Challenge Cup quarter-final, while they also came out on top in their previous trip to the Saints in 2012.

Northampton Saints: George Furbank; Courtnall Skosan, Tom Litchfield, Rory Hutchinson, Tom Collins; Dan Biggar, Alex Mitchell; Alex Waller, Sam Matavesi, Paul Hill; David Ribbans, Brandon Nansen; Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam (capt), Teimana Harrison

Replacements: James Fish, Emmanuel Iyogun, Ehren Painter, Api Ratuniyarawa, Alex Coles, Juarno Augustus, Tom James, Tommy Freeman,

Ulster: Mike Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore; Alan O'Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell; Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)