THERE IS A distinctly French feel to the refereeing appointments for the Irish province’s vital Heineken Cup round five and six matches.
Four French refs will take charge of Ulster. Connacht, Munster and Leinster’s round five fixtures in early January.
Pascal Gauzere, the man who penalised Munster 18 times in their home game against Saracens, will oversee Ulster’s clash with Glasgow Warriors on 11 January.
Mathieu Raynal is the main in the middle for Connacht’s visit to Harlequins while Jerome Garces will referee Leinster v Scarlets at the RDS.
Romain Poite will call the shots on 13 January when Rob Penney’s Munster take on Edinburgh in what is essentially a must-win game.
‘This is not soccer’
Gauzere gets the whistle again for Connacht’s home match against Zebre on 18 January and, depending on the round five results, a spot in the Heineken or Amlin Cup knock-out stages could be up for grabs.
The French streak is broken by Nigel Owens, who will take charge of Ulster’s crucial away clash with Castres.
Poite then takes his reffing talents to Exeter for the Chiefs home tie with Joe Schmidt’s Leinster on 19 January.
Wayne Barnes of England will officiate Munster’s home tilt with Racing Metro on Sunday, 20 January.
If Munster defeat Edinburgh in round five they may need a bonus point win to qualify for the cup quarter-finals.