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ESPN's rugby predictions: Games of the week, potential upsets & more

It is the final weekend of domestic action before the European campaign begins, and there are some quality games on the menu. Leinster host Munster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, while there is a full round of Welsh derbies, Wasps travel to Saracens and Toulouse entertain Clermont.

Ahead of a busy few days our experts predict which teams are set for a big weekend, which players will shine and where your attention should be trained across all three leagues.

Player to watch

Premiership (Martyn Thomas): Jonny May. There have been signs over the last few weeks that Leicester's expensively assembled backline might just be creaking into life. Three straight wins have propelled the Tigers up the table with George Ford, Ben Youngs and Telusa Veainu all impressive. The main reason for optimism, though, has been May, who has scored five tries in his five matches in a Leicester shirt. Next up, a trip to Reading to face a London Irish leaking points.

PRO14 (Cillian O Conchuir): Steff Evans. Most offloads, defenders beaten, metres gained and try assists in the competition. Add in the hat trick of tries he has scored this season and Evans has helped fill the void left by Liam Williams at the Scarlets. With Wales facing Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa, a continued run of form could see Evans, 23, add to his two Wales caps this autumn.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Sekou Macalou. The Stade Francais flanker and one-time winger has long been on the radar of national selectors, and this could be his breakout season. Macalou, 22, was on fire last weekend at Pau, where he scored the match-winning try. The prospect of a pitch battle with another rising back row star this weekend, Montpellier's Yacouba Camara, is mouthwatering. In fact, watch out for both of these young-gun French forwards. They're going to go far.

Game of the weekend

Prem: Saracens vs. Wasps, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Third versus eighth might not sound like a stellar encounter but there is much riding on the clash at Allianz Park. Saracens have not been beaten on their own ground since March, 2016 but their visitors on Sunday know only too well that records are made to be broken. Following three successive defeats Wasps head to north London in need of a victory, especially with the European season coming into view. Something has to give.

PRO14: Leinster vs. Munster, Saturday, 2 p.m.

The biggest game of the PRO14 season thus far will provide an indication of how strong both sides are going into the European campaign. Leinster were lucky against Edinburgh last week, while Munster responded to being pummeled by Glasgow two weeks ago by defeating Cardiff. Munster's Peter O'Mahony said he would take a performance over result ahead of the Champions Cup but defeat is unthinkable for both sets of supporters.

Top 14: Toulouse vs. Clermont, Sunday, 8 p.m.

Few would have predicted defending champions Clermont to be languishing in ninth place after six games. But while Stade Marcel Michelin remains a fortress, Franck Azema's men have forgotten the secret to picking up points on the road. It seems unlikely that the visitors, with three wins in 10 attempts at Ernest Wallon, will break born-again Toulouse's own perfect home streak, but there will be plenty of star-spangled talent on display in the round's final match.

Potential upset

Prem: Harlequins vs. Sale, Friday, 7.45 p.m.

Victory for either side would help them climb the table and provide a tonic ahead of the European campaign. Both teams have had their share of injuries so far this season, but especially Harlequins, who were missing 25 senior and academy players for their defeat against Northampton last weekend and must now contend without Kyle Sinckler. Sale -- who ran in eight tries to beat Gloucester a week ago -- will fancy their chances, therefore, in a game they lost narrowly last season.

PRO14: Edinburgh vs. Zebre Friday, 7.35 p.m.

After recording back-to-back wins against Southern Kings and Ulster, Zebre are looking for another scalp. Edinburgh, meanwhile, head into the game having suffered three consecutive defeats, which began with a home loss to Treviso. On form, the upset would be Edinburgh knocking over Zebre. After wins on the opening two weekends of the season, Richard Cockerill would be left feeling the pressure if Edinburgh slip up again.

Top 14: Brive vs. Castres, Saturday, 5.45 p.m.

It has all gone wrong for Brive this season. Four tries and a solitary losing bonus point to show for their efforts in six outings; points machine Gaetan Germain injured; the departure of backs coach Philippe Carbonneau before last weekend's trip to Montpellier; while head coach Nicolas Godignon needs back surgery and will be out of action for a month. They are desperate for a win - and it could come against Castres who, despite a much-needed victory of their own against Clermont last weekend, are still struggling to ignite all cylinders.

Big weekend for...

Prem: Gloucester. The early signs seemed so good for the Cherry and Whites. Johan Ackermann arrived amid a blaze of positive publicity and breezed to victory over the champions, Exeter, on the league's opening night. Supporters dared to dream, but things have not worked out quite as planned. Defeat to Sale was heavy, humbling and full of errors. Next up are table-topping Northampton. Another loss could leave them cut adrift with London Irish and Worcester in the lower reaches.

PRO14: Welsh rugby. Following confirmation of Rhys Webb's departure, the two Welsh derbies have perhaps added significance. The quality of these games could convince any players thinking of joining Webb, Dan Biggar and Liam WIlliams outside of Wales that they can achieve their club ambition in regional rugby. Conversely, they could also provide them with a reason to leave.

Top 14: Wesley Fofana and Pat Lambie. Clermont and France centre Fofana ruptured his achilles during the Top 14 side's 48-26 European Champions Cup victory over Exeter in January -- but could return this weekend at Toulouse. Meanwhile, Lambie -- who hasn't played since suffering a concussion in former club Sharks' Super Rugby clash against Southern Kings in May -- is expected to make his Racing 92 debut against La Rochelle.