1. Game of the week
Chiefs v Bulls
Referee: Mark Lawrence
Any advantage the Chiefs may have with home field is balanced by the appointment of South African Mark Lawrence to referee.
Both teams are coming off last-up losses and cannot afford that sequence to continue.
The Chiefs - directed by the canny Aaron Cruden - can see the Crusaders looming in their rear-view mirror, but they'd have to fall over badly not to make the top six.
The Bulls have seen the Stormers overtake them, and have the added worry of the fast-finishing Sharks.
This has the makings of an epic - just hope Lawrence does not become the central figure.
2. Almost game of the week
Brumbies v RedsCanberra, 9.40pm
Referee: Steve Walsh
We've got a couple of rippers this week, including a rare gem from across the Tassie.
The Reds were not great against the Lions, but the memories of their demolition of the Chiefs are still vivid.
They need this win if they are to have any realistic hopes of winning theAC.
That won't be easy. Jake White has transformed the Brumbies into a combative, well-drilled side who are always difficult to beat.
3. Carrington Rd
Pilot script for a NZ On Air reality/drama at the Blues training facility.
Pat: Morning team.
Blues: Morning coach.
Pat: Where's Ali?
Luke: Haven't seen him.
Pat: That's what I've been saying all year - ha ha!
Team: Ha, ha! Nice one, coach.
Pat: Right, today let's work on tackling and defensive systems.
Piri: Stink as, I'm starving.
Pat: Okay, let's break for brunch and reassemble tomorrow.
To be continued ...
4. Money ball
Herald betting analyst Michael Guerin searches for weekly gems.
If you are feeling nervous about the All Blacks two weeks before their first test of the season, the TAB has the bet for you. Betting has opened on the June 9 test at Eden Park, and although there won't be a lot of punters willing to back the Irish to finally beat the ABs, you can have a foot in both camps.
Remarkably, the TAB bookies have marked the Irish as 15.5 points worse than the All Blacks.
That is a hell of start when you consider the European form of many of the Irish stars in the Heineken Cup, the All Blacks tendency to start seasons slowly and the number of frontline All Blacks who won't be at Eden Park.
And though the Garden Of Eden may be the All Blacks' fortress, don't forget the Irish beat the Wallabies there during the RWC so they may feel quite at home.
5. Stat attack
No point kicking the Blues while they're down so let's have a look at something ... nah, let's kick the Blues. Their latest abomination earned them several distinctions.
A) Highest score against
Second equal! The 59 was just beaten by the 63 the Chiefs put on them three years ago.
B) Highest losing margin
First! Gold medal! Saturday's disgrace beats by nine the 38-point losing margin to the Reds in 1996.
C) Biggest margin in derby matches
Fifth equal! Beaten by Bulls v Stormers (61, 2005), Blues v Hurricanes (53, 2002), Reds v Rebels (50, 2011), Cheetahs v Lions (49, 2010).
6. Say what?
"You don't go from being a world-class player to being a mug just because you've lost your confidence." - All Black coach Steve Hansen should tell that to any sportsperson who stopped being world class for that very reason.