The Six Nations is over and the Premiership is returning, see the Crashball Rugby preview for round 18.
Time for English fans to put the pain of a disappointing Six Nations campaign behind them and return to domestic duty until England's tour to South Africa begins to loom this summer.
We preview each game this weekend, the favourites and how each team stands going into the final five rounds of the season. Before we begin, here's a reminder of the table as it stands.
Exeter returned to the top spot with their home win over Saracens in round 17, a healthy seven point lead ahead of Wasps and eight ahead of Saracens.
The impressive Newcastle Falcons sit in a well deserved fourth place, currently well in the conversation for the play-offs. Can they make the semi-finals come May?
Four points separate Leicester Tigers in fifth and Sale Sharks in eighth in a congested mid- table. Gloucester look the favourites of the chasing pack to break into the top four come the final round of the regular season, with Johan Ackermann steering the Cherry and Whites into exceptional attacking form in his first season in the Premiership.
The relegation battle had seemed sown up for the last few months, with London Irish struggling to find any kind of winning form. However, in the recent rounds they picked up a win against Worcester and arguably were the better of the two teams in their 24-16 loss to Wasps in the last round.
Worcester have lost one of the most influential cogs in a midlands machine beginning to build momentum, inside centre and playmaker Ryan Mills. The former Gloucester player has been at the heart of everything good Worcester have done so far this season, bringing playmaking, impenetrable defence and some wonderful hard running lines. While the return of England star Ben Te'o will fill the sizable gap left by Mills, Te'o is no playmaker. There is every chance Irish could continue to build up steam and pass a Worcester side without one of, if not their most influential player.
The relegation battle is about to heat up.
Round 18 fixtures
Bath (7th) vs Exeter Chiefs (1st)
Exeter look to further cement their place at the top of the table while Bath will be desperate to put on a show for their fans at home and separate themselves from the heavy traffic mid-table.
Chiefs have had a couple of wobbles so far this season, but are looking back to near their best, especially since unearthing the talented young fly-half Joe Simmonds. The return of both their England and injured contingents will go some way to reinforcing their title ambitions, with Harry Williams, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade either recently returned or soon to be.
Bath's woes have been harder to shake, with a bizarre inability to perform consistently and form that is most adequately compared to a yoyo. Todd Blackadder's side have proved that at times they can stand toe-to-toe with the best in Europe, but they can also drop to form that sees the West Country outfit struggle to get past the sides at the bottom of the table.
Fortunately, Bath also welcome home internationals and injured players and will benefit significantly from the return of Welsh international fly-half Rhys Priestland. Bath's season could go either way and are the betting man's nightmare. If they have any hope in retaining Champions Cup rugby next season, they must at the minimum put in a strong showing at home this weekend against the reigning champions.
London Irish (12th) vs Gloucester (6th)
As previously discussed, Irish are beginning to build up speed in a serious bid to retain Premiership credentials next season. The Gloucester of old that seemed incapable of putting in a strong showing on the road seems to have begun to fade and will fancy their chances to put a healthy score over the 12th placed side at the Madejski Stadium. However, the Cherry and Whites are still prone to the odd disappointing performance on the road and must be sure not to underestimate Irish.
Either side could put in a fantastic or sub-par showing this weekend and could well go some way towards sealing the fates of relegation and play-off ambitions if the weekend's other results don't go their way. Irish have now acquired the impressive coaching pairing of Les Kiss and Declan Kidney and should go some way to bolstering their end of season run-in, it may not be televised, but this fixture should attract a reasonable amount of interest to the neutral.
Sale Sharks (8th) vs Worcester Warriors (11th)
Another fixture that could have a significant influence on Champions Cup rugby and potential relegation will be underway at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday, with Steve Diamond's Sharks looking to hold fast against Alan Solomons' Warriors.
Worcester return to Premiership action following a heavy home defeat at the hands of Leicester Tigers and will be very keen to right those wrongs in Manchester. They have proved they can tango with the best, having beaten the Chiefs in a low scoring affair at Sandy Park earlier in the season. A win on the road this weekend will go some way to distancing themselves from London Irish and 'the drop'.
Sale, similarly to Bath, struggle with inconsistency and have the potential to threaten any top of the table side on their day. They must ensure a home game against a relegation contender is a guaranteed win if they are to jump up the table and secure Champions Cup qualification next season. Sale's backline is filled to the brim with talent and will be entering round 18 following the news of a tall heap of vital contract extensions from key players. Another fixture that is far from a forgone conclusion.
Two sides that play some very attractive rugby, it's a shame this clash will only be available a day after the fixture is concluded on the Premiership Rugby website.
Saracens (3rd) vs Harlequins (9th)
Saracens host ninth place Harlequins at the London Stadium this weekend, keen to make up the ground lost between themselves and Exeter Chiefs. While their internationals will be returning, it is unlikely (or at least short-sighted) that they will be thrown straight back into the starting lineup. Their squad depth and home advantage should dictate a victory this weekend, looking to further distance themselves from their rough patch mid-season.
A third Premiership title in four years is on the cards for Mark McCall's men, but they are going to need to get back to executing their systems as mechanically as they have done in recent years.
Harlequins are enjoying the return of fly-half Dimitri Catrakilis after a nasty break to a bone in his throat that required laser surgery, allowing rising star Marcus Smith to benefit from a well-deserved rest from the bench. The young phenomenon is currently sitting as the highest points scorer in the Premiership ahead of Gareth Steenson and Owen Farrell, and may well be returning to try and steer Harlequins to glory in one of their toughest fixtures of the season.
Quins sit level in terms of inconsistency that has fans tearing their hair out, able to trade blows with the best on their day and capitulate against bottom of the table sides when not on song.
It's unlikely John Kingston's men will be able to secure Champions Cup qualification ahead of next season, but a strong finish will be key to returning to some form of consistent performances.
Newcastle Falcons (4th) vs Northampton Saints (10th)
Fourth plays tenth in a landmark fixture this weekend that sees the Falcons take their home game away from Kingston Park to St James Park, with record attendance! Newcastle have passed the 24,000 mark in tickets sold and have already doubled their previous home record of 11,750 at Gateshead International Stadium in 1998.
A strong home crowd combined with some exceptional form so far this season will likely see the Falcons sail past the Saints and continue their hopes of making the semi-finals.
Northampton come off the back of a loss in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final at Bath earlier this month and need a win to spark some enthusiasm. Saints are realistically safe from the threat of relegation this season but still need to ensure they set some solid foundations prior to the arrival of new Head Coach Chris Boyd from the Hurricanes next season. A sizeable gap is left in the side with Courtney Lawes out for the rest of the season following knee surgery, they face a tough task if they are going to finish a torrid season with a flourish.
Leicester Tigers (5th) vs Wasps (2nd)
The final round of the weekend throws up a tasty Midlands derby, with Wasps heading East to Welford Road.
Wasps currently hold second spot in the table, but are far from nailed on for a home semi-final. They are hot on the heels of Exeter whilst also feeling Saracens' breath on the back of their necks. Wasps face a sizeable challenge to stay in the top two come the final round. They will welcome back Joe Launchbury and James Haskell from international duty, both of whom had excellent tournaments and will look to take out the pain of the Six Nations in the Premiership.
They may be without Nathan Hughes at eight, but with their current backrow options, it shouldn't be a problem for them. Exciting times are ahead for Wasps fans, with Sale, Worcester, Saints, and Falcons next up for the Coventry-based side. A run-in that on paper should prove prosperous, but will in reality offer plenty of challenges. A loss this weekend may not cost them a home play-off spot, but a win would go some way to securing one.
Leicester sit a meagre three points behind Newcastle and a potential semi-final qualification, but will be very keen to get one over their local rivals. Tigers need to turn Welford Road into a fortress again to return to something close to their former glory and would set down a significant statement of intent with a win over last season's finalists.
Tigers welcome home Dan Cole and George Ford from international duty. Matt Toomua and Manu Tuilagi continue to form a promising centre partnership and Telusa Veainu is fit again and tearing defences apart. There is plenty of potential in this Leicester side, but their pack must step up another level to be considered serious play-off contenders this year.
Biggest stats as it stands