The Top League is set for its climax, with playoffs beginning on Saturday, featuring plenty of familiar names.
David Pocock will captain Panasonic as the Wild Knights look to continue their perfect seasons in their final four clash against Toyota Verblitz.
Pocock has been influential for the Wild Knights in his second season with the Japanese powerhouse, and will lead out fellow Wallabies Daniel Heenan and Digby Ioane in the clash.
Matt Giteau’s Suntory will take on Yamaha for a spot in the Top League decider, along with no. 8 Sean McMahon, ex-Brumbies backrower Jordan Smiler and ex-Reds centre Campbell Magnay.
I get my first taste at finals rugby tomorrow afternoon. Semi final against Yamaha.. can’t wait for the experience & the challenge.. prep is done.. now we enjoy it!— Matt Giteau 🇦🇺 (@giteau_rugby) January 5, 2018
Suntory has lost just one match in two seasons, in their cross-pool clash with Panasonic, and the two powerhouses are hot favourites to meet in a second consecutive decider.
Though those are the only teams in contention for the title, each team will play for a final overall rank this week.
Peter Kimlin will be at no. 8 for Toyota Industries Shuttles in the minor playoffs, in a team stacked with Aussies including Sam Green, former Waratahs winger Harry Jones and Cadeyrn Neville, while former Reds backrower Ed Quirk will be starting for Canon.
Saia Faingaa will start for London Irish against Leicester, in what is set to a clash stacked with Aussies.
He will go head-to-head with Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who is starting at home for the first time for Leicester, playing alongside former Wallabies 12 Matt Toomua.
James O’Connor will be at 15 again for Sale when they take on James Horwill’s Harlequins, though Horwill will still be missing through injury for the London side.
Rob Horne starts at outside centre for Northampton as they prepare to get Alan Gaffney’s reign off to a positive start against Gloucester, who will have James Hanson at starting hooker.
Will Skelton will come off the bench for Saracens in a blockbuster clash with Wasps, while new signing Nic Stirzaker has missed out on a debut appearance.
Lachie Turner and Nic White will start at fullback and scrumhalf, respectively, for Exeter as they look to extend their lead on top of the table, against Newcastle, while Greg Holmes comes off the bench.
Ben Tapuai was at 12 for Bath in a huge 46-25 win over Worcester, a triumphant start to the new year.
Luke Jones will be in the second row for Bordeaux against former Rebels teammate and Lyon flyhalf Mike Harris and openside Liam Gill.
Joe Tomane and Jesse Mogg have been left out of Montpellier’s team to take on Stade Francais, after the side’s disappointing loss to Brive.
Christian Lealiifano will be in the driver’s seat for Ulster against Leinster, at 10 when he facing off against long-time teammate Scott Fardy, who will start in the second row.