Rob Howley has told Wales' RBS 6 Nations hopefuls to prove their worth in this weekend's Heineken Cup fixtures.
Howley, backs coach under national chief Warren Gatland, will have a watching brief ahead of next week’s squad selection for the opening match against England.
And the former scrum-half insists now is the time for fringe players to put their hands up and earn a Six Nations starting berth.
Howley said: “The Heineken Cup is an integral part of our selection process so it is important players perform well in this competition.
“We have spoken about the intensity that this competition brings, which is similar to international rugby.
“The next couple of games are going to be key in selection for the Six Nations.”
Ospreys – who travel to Clermont Auvergne on Saturday – should welcome back Lions stars Alun Wyn Jones, James Hook and Shane Williams from injury.
Meanwhile, Blues and Scarlets entertain Sale and London Irish respectively, while the Dragons travel to play Glasgow on Friday evening.
“Every player who starts in the Heineken Cup has got a great opportunity to impress the Wales management, particularly after our disappointing display against Australia,” added Howley.
“We are looking at selections and combinations, while we also have players coming back from injuries who have not played a lot of rugby over the Christmas period.”