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

The "Beast from the East" has already claimed a number of fixtures across Ireland and Wales, but there is still plenty to get excited about in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14.

Which teams are set for a big weekend and which players will shine?

Player to watch

Premiership (Martyn Thomas): Demetri Catrakilis. Having played 13 minutes of Harlequins' defeat to Newcastle last weekend as a replacement, the South African fly-half is handed a first start since fracturing a bone in his throat against Gloucester last September. It has been a long road back to recovery for Catrakilis, but his club need him to hit the ground running against Bath. Quins' loss to the Falcons was their 10th in 16 league games this campaign, and John Kingston's side are are falling further and further out of top-six contention with every defeat.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Vincent Clerc. The games remaining in the veteran's playing career are, probably, into single figures. He has until the end of the season to equal -- and maybe even beat -- the relatively unknown Laurent Arbo's decade-old record of 100 Top 14 tries. Clerc touched down 98 times in a glittering 14 years at Toulouse, but a long-term injury means he has only managed one since joining Toulon at the start of the 2016-17 season. With time fast running out, he'll want as much game time as he can get to reach what would be a well-deserved century.

Game of the weekend

Prem: Exeter vs. Saracens, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Do not be put off by the lack of international players on show at Sandy Park, this should be some contest -- if it goes ahead. Chiefs will make a call on staging the game at 3 p.m. (GMT) on Friday, with Exeter currently the subject of a red weather warning. If the snow eases then expect a committed clash as first and second go head-to-head. Exeter only regained top spot last weekend, and the likes of Olly Woodburn, Don Armand and Luke Cowan-Dickie will be determined to ensure they stay there.

Top 14: Lyon vs. Toulon, Saturday, 1.45 p.m.

Lyon yo-yoed between the Top 14 and ProD2 for several years, until brash young club president Yann Roubert pulled off his best signing to date in 2016 -- tempting then-Toulon assistant coach Pierre Mignoni to the club hotseat. After guiding his side to creditable survival last season, Mignoni is starting to build something special at Stade de Gerland -- and has already signed a long-term contract extension. With his side playing attractive, free-flowing, rapid-fire rugby, the playoffs this season are not out of the question. But while Toulon are a shadow of the Galacticos of seasons gone by, they still have the firepower to put good sides to the sword when the mood takes them.

Potential upset

Prem: Northampton vs. Sale, Saturday, 3 p.m.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Sale could end the weekend in the top six, and a victory at Franklin's Gardens would certainly cement their challenge for Champions Cup rugby next season. Both sides head into the weekend in indifferent form, but at the end of a week that saw the Sharks secure the futures of AJ MacGinty and Denny Solomona, don't bet against them to beat Northampton.

Top 14: Bordeaux vs. Toulouse, Sunday, 7.45 p.m.

Bit of a cheat, this, as it's easy to call 'upset' either way. Ninth-placed Bordeaux have lost their last three, so a victory over third-placed Toulouse, who have won their last three, could easily score one in the upset column. But Bordeaux's losing run was against playoff chasing trio Toulon, Castres and Montpellier -- and two of those defeats were by a single point. Toulouse's winning streak, meanwhile, came against lowly Brive, Agen and Oyonnax. Suddenly the form book looks a little different.

Big weekend for...

Prem: London Irish. Last weekend's win over Worcester has given Nick Kennedy's side the slightest glimmer of hope in the battle to avoid relegation. The Exiles now travel to Coventry to face Wasps, a team they haven't beaten in any competition or at any venue since February, 2014. It is unlikely that will change on Sunday, but a losing bonus-point would give them something to cling on to as the club prepares for its annual St. Patrick's Day jamboree, against Gloucester on March 24.

Top 14: What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday, Oyonnax were adrift and alone at the foot of the table, caught in dangerous waters that crash on ProD2 shores. But their second win of the season -- away at Clermont to boot -- has put them in sight of fellow strugglers Brive, Agen, and Stade Francais. They play all three in the run-in, starting this weekend, when they entertain the Parisian bluebloods at Stade Charles Mathon. Truth be told, Oyonnax have given higher-ranked sides than Stade a run for their money in recent weeks. We may yet to witness one of the great rugby escapes.