Five players to watch
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL, LEINSTER
Haunted by the unscripted ending to his fourth and final British and Irish Lions, one of Europe's greatest players of any era will be desperate to ensure his farewell season is memorable for the right reasons. The 34-year-centre is still capable of moments of genius.
GEORGE NORTH, NORTHAMPTON
The marquee signing of last summer saw the Lions superstar join Northampton and his arrival has given them a genuine chance of winning the Heineken Cup. North has made an impressive start to life at Franklin's Gardens and the bulldozing wing thrives on the big stage.
BILLY VUNIPOLA, SARACENS
Saracens have begun the Aviva Premiership like a freight train and Vunipola has been at the forefront of their power-game. Still only 20, the rampaging back row has been arguing a very strong case to be England's starting number eight this autumn.
STUART HOGG, GLASGOW
Made a strong start to the Lions tour but suffered following his move to fly-half from full-back. A different proposition in the number 15 jersey, however, where his speed and agility make him a dangerous counter-attacker who thrives in broken play.
JONATHAN PELISSIE, MONTPELLIER
Arguably the star of the Top 14 so far with his 31-point haul against Clermont and a headline-grabbing turn against Toulouse propelling the 25-year-old French scrum-half into Test contention for the autumn. Lightning quick and creative, he offers a threat all over the pitch.