10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Leicester boss Dean Richards however insists that his side can put things right starting with a win on Saturday before a 16,800 sell-out crowd at their Welford Road stadium.
"It's still open," said a defiant Richards. "We're in one of those pools where it's difficult to predict the outcome. We're going through a bit of a hiccup at the moment, but it can be put right."
England skipper Johnson, struggling with a back injury, came off the bench against Ulster last weekend and reports have said that he has delayed his retirement announcement until after Saturday's game to avoid any disruption in training.
Ulster have named an unchanged side with coach Alan Solomons saying: "This weekend is a massive challenge for us, but this is why we're involved in professional rugby. We live for matches like these."
In the other Pool 1 game on Sunday, struggling Stade Francais have brought in 22-year-old Gregory Mahe at scrum-half replacing the injured Agustin Pichot at home to Gwent Dragons. The Welsh side won 20-12 at home when the sides met last weekend.
Reigning champions Toulouse travel to Wales in Friday's opener looking for back-to-back wins over Neath-Swansea Ospreys as they continue to track Pool 2 leaders Edinburgh. French international centre Yannick Jauzion said last weekend's win in a mud-bath of a match at Toulouse had sent confidence soaring following the shock of their defeat away to Edinburgh in December. "We're still chasing Edinburgh because they are dominating the Pool at the moment," said Jauzion. "It was important to do what we did on Saturday, but we have to climb the table even further next week."
Edinburgh travel to Leeds looking to maintain their 100 % record and the Yorkshire side know that they cannot afford another slip-up. "It is still mathematically possible for us to qualify for the quarter-finals and, as long as that chance exists - however slim it may be - then we will keep going," said Leeds coach Phil Davies.
In Pool 4, unbeaten leaders Llanelli Scarlets will be hard-pushed at Agen a side they beat by just 19-15 at home last weekend, while Northampton could go top if the Welsh side lose and they garner the maximum five points away to Borders. "There will be a reversal of roles this weekend," said Llanelli boss Gareth Jenkins of the trip to southwest France. "The expectation and the pressure is on them - the whole of Agen will be expecting a home result."
It's nip-and-tuck in Pool 6 with Wasps, Perpignan and Celtic Warriors level on 10 points. The Warriors battle it out with Wasps in Wales, and Perpignan will be looking to take advantage when they travel to Italy to play a Calvisano side they defeated 48-7 last weekend. Pool 5 leaders Gloucester facea tough visit to second-placed Munster, while Italian side Treviso will be hard-pushed to repeat their 42-33 win over Bourgoin away from home.
Both Leinster and Biarritz, joint leaders of Pool 3 on 10 points are away, the Irish having the harder assignment at Sale with the French travelling to struggling Cardiff who have lost their last 10 European Cup games.