Preview: Pro12, Round Four
As Round Four of the Pro12 opens, a Welsh region still tops the table. However, it is not last season’s winners, Ospreys, but their opponents on Friday night, Scarlets, setting the pace.
As Round Four of the Pro12 opens, a Welsh region still tops the table. However, it is not last season’s winners, Ospreys, but their opponents on Friday, Scarlets, setting the pace.
The Llanelli-based side have so far dropped just one point out of a possible 15, whilst Ospreys are still looking for their first victory of this campaign.
Also on Friday Glasgow Warriors play their second game at their new home of Scotstoun Stadium, this time Connachtare the visitors.
The Irish province do not have a very good record in Glasgow and after their impressive victory over the reigning champions in the last round, Warriors will be looking to secure their first win at their new venue.
Six teams are in action on Saturday with two games in Ireland and one in Wales, and all three home teams, Leinster, Munster and Cardiff Blues, have a won two lost one record so far in this campaign.
Benetton Treviso are the visitors to Wales where they face Cardiff Blues, a team they have never beaten, at the Arms Park.
Edinburgh, who travel to Dublin to face Leinster, have not returned with a win from city since 2005, whilst it has been even longer since Munster’s opponents, Newport Gwent Dragons, tasted victory at Thomond Park - March 2004.
Following the death of Ulster’s Nevin Spence at the weekend, the fixture between Zebre and Ulster, scheduled to be played on Friday, has been postponed.
Friday, September 21
Glasgow Warriors v Connacht
(Scotstoun Stadium, 19.35pm GMT)
Glasgow Warriors gained a notable opening win of the PRO12 season courtesy of their 28-10 victory against reigning champions Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on Friday.
The Warriors’ only victory in their last six PRO12 encounters with Irish provinces was 24-3 against Connacht in this equivalent fixture last season.
Connacht’s solo win in their last four contests was over Italian new boys Zebre in round two. The Irishmen have recorded just one victory in Scotland since 2006: 19-17 against Glasgow at Firhill on 17 September 2010.
The Warriors’ 24-3 win over Connacht at Firhill in May snapped a four game winless run against the Irish province. Connacht have triumphed just twice on Glasgow home turf, in 2003 and 2010
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Barclay, 6 James Eddie, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Moray Low, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Finlay Gillies, 17 Mike Cusack, 18 Gordon Reid, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Angus Macdonald, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Scott Wight, 23 Troy Nathan.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (capt), 14 James Loxton, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 David McSharry, 11 Mark McCrea, 10 Matthew Jarvis, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Johnny O'Connor, 5 David Gannon, 4 George Naoupu, 3 Nathan White, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O'Byrne, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Michael Kearney, 21 David Moore, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Mata Fifita.
Referee: Alain Rolland
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Adrian Graves
TMO: Jim Yuille
Scarlets v Ospreys
(Parc y Scarlets, 19.05 GMT)
Scarlets continue to set the pace in the PRO12, dropping just one possible point from their first three encounters when they failed to score four tries in overcoming Glasgow in round two.
Scarlets are unbeaten in their last ten matches at Parc y Scarlets in the tournament, and have not lost to a fellow Welsh region in the competition since they visited Liberty Stadium on 27 December 2010.
The only other time that Ospreys have begun a season with three successive defeats was in 2007/08. Ospreys have won their last three clashes with fellow Welsh sides in all competitions.
Scarlets’ 22-14 victory over Ospreys last Boxing Day ended a seven game winless sequence against their nearest rivals.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 George Earle, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Peter Edwards, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 George Stowers, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Jonathan Thomas, 20 Ryan Jones, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Jonathan Spratt.
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Jon Mason
TMO: Derek Bevan
Saturday, September 22
Cardiff Blues v Treviso
(Cardiff Arms Park, Kick-off: 18.30 GMT)
Strangely, all three of Cardiff Blues’ Pro12 matches so far this season have been won by the away side on the day.
The Blues won 16-5 at the Dragons on Friday, but have not managed back to back victories in the tournament since last February.
The Welsh region has a perfect played 13, won 13 record in previous encounters with Italian opponents in all competitions.
Benetton Treviso have slipped to successive PRO12 defeats to Irish powerhouses Munster and Leinster, although the latter reversal was by the narrowest of margins, the Italians having been in the lead with seconds left. Treviso have won their last two games against Welsh regions.
The Blues have won all four previous encounters between the two teams.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Bradley Davies (captain), 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Nathan Trevett.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Campese Ma'afu, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Edoardo Gori, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Marco Filippucci, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Jacobus Roux, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Paul Derbyshire, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Luca Morisi.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Chris Williams
TMO: Tony Rowlands
Leinster v Edinburgh
(Royal Dublin Society, Kick-off: 19.15 GMT)
Leinster have secured back to back victories in the Pro12, although they had Jonathan Sexton to thank for their 19-18 success in Treviso on Saturday - the Irish flyhalf kicking the winning penalty goal in the 79th minute.
The Leinstermen are undefeated in their last six clashes with Scottish sides in all competitions.
Edinburgh have also been victorious in their last two fixtures, against the Blues and Zebre. The Scotsmen have not won three in a row in the tournament since October 2010.
Edinburgh have lost their last eight encounters with Irish provinces.
Leinster have won five of their last six matches against Edinburgh, whilst the only Scottish side to beat Leinster on their own soil since Edinburgh did so at Donnybrook in 2005, was Glasgow in September 2011.
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Brendan Macken.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Willem Nel1, 9 Robert McAlpine, 20 Dimitri Basilaia, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Dougie Fife.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant referees: Simon McDowell (Ireland), Trevor Collins (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ireland)
Munster v Newport Gwent Dragons
(Thomond Park, Kick-off: 21.00 GMT)
Munster lost their 100 percent winning start to the PRO12 with their narrow 19-20 defeat at Ulster on Friday.
The Munstermen have won their last three home games, whilst the only Welsh side to win on Munster turf since April 2010 was Ospreys in October 2011.
Newport Gwent Dragons have slipped to successive defeats at the hands of Leinster and Cardiff Blues. Dragons’ solitaryvictory in their last 13 fixtures against Irish opponents was 22-9 at home to Ulster in September 2011.
The Men from Gwent have won just once in Ireland since 2004: 16-14 against Ulster at Ravenhill on 19 September 2008.
Munster have won their last three encounters with the Dragons, whilst the Newport Gwent side have won just once in Munster - on their very first visit to Thomond Park on 12 March 2004.
Munster: 15 Ian Keatley, 14 Doug Howlett (captain), 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Danny Barnes, 23 JJ Hanrahan.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Lewis Robling, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Tom Brown. 7 Jevon Groves, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones (captain), 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Tim Ryan, 19 Toby Faletau, 20 Lewis Evans, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Andy Tuilagi, 23 Pat Leach.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), D Connolly (Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)