The news that Paul O’Connell is to undergo surgery for his recent back problems will be of more concern to the Irish and Lions selectors than to Munster who have become used to the absence of the mercurial O’Connell this season – indeed he has only made two appearances for the Munster men.
It seems unlikely that O’Connell will play any part in Ireland’s Six Nations in 2013 and his participation in the Lions tour of Australia must also be in serious doubt.
On the RaboDirect Pro12 front, despite their loss to Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday, as we enter the New Year, Ulster remain clear at the top of the PRO12 table with a 9 point lead over second placed Scarlets, who they welcome to Ravenhill on Friday night.
That is just one of four games on Friday, two in Scotland and one in Wales, as the teams leave behind the festive local derbies and once more take to the road.
Edinburgh Rugby welcome Irish opposition in the form of European champions, Leinster, whilst fourth placed Glasgow Warriors face Benetton Treviso at Scotstoun knowing the Italians defeated them on their last trip to the city.
The fourth game on Friday sees the second Italian outfit, Zebre, who are still looking for their first win in the tournament take on champions Ospreys at Liberty Stadium.
There are two games on Saturday, both in Ireland, for Connacht and Munster. With their round 11 game against Ospreys still outstanding, by the time Newport Gwent Dragons travel to Galway, they could have overtaken their opponents, Connacht, in the table.
The round wraps up in Cork on Saturday evening, when Cardiff Blues will be hoping to improve on their record when
travelling to play Munster as they have not won in the province since 2007.