Preview: Pro12, Round Six
In what will be the final round of Pro12 games before the start of the European competitions, Ulster sit one point clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.
In what will be the final round of Pro12 games before the start of the European competitions, Ulster sit one point clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over their rivals.
They welcome Connacht to Ravenhill on Friday night, a place where the visitors have never won in this tournament.
Also on Friday there is an east v west derby in Wales as Newport Gwent Dragons travel to Llanelli to play Scarlets.
Second-placed Scarlets will be looking to get back to winning ways having suffered two successive defeats, and can surely take heart from the fact they have been victorious in the last eight meetings against the men from Gwent.
Both Italian teams are in action as well on Friday night, Benetton Treviso travelling to Edinburgh, whilst Zebre host current champions, Ospreys, in Parma. Ospreys have already lost in Italy this season, at Treviso in round one, so will be keen to return home with the points from this trip.
Edinburgh on the other hand have never lost to an Italian side at Murrayfield, and will hope the trend continues this round.
There are two games on Saturday, at the Arms Park Cardiff Blues must be aiming to bounce back from the Region’s biggest-ever home defeat by Ulster last weekend when they face Glasgow Warriors, who themselves struggled to overcome new boys Zebre in the last round.
However, the match of the round must be at the Aviva Stadium when Leinster take on Munster. Leinster are another team looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat, having gone down 6-34 at Connacht last round, whilst Munster will have to overcome the omens if they are to claim the win having lost to Leinster in seven of their last nine meetings in all competitions, and losing on their last three visits to the Aviva Stadium.
We look at all the Round Six action
Friday, October 5
Scarlets v Newport Gwent Dragons
(Parc y Scarlets - 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
Scarlets made a great start to the Pro12 season, winning their first three games, however they have now tripped up to successive losses, at home to Ospreys and away at Treviso. Scarlets have not lost consecutive home games at Parc y Scarlets in the tournament since December 2009.
Newport Gwent Dragons got back to winning ways following three successive defeats in overcoming Edinburgh 32-12 at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
The Dragons have lost their last three away games and have beaten a fellow Welsh region just once on their own turf since 2007: 21-16 over Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on October 30, 2010.
Scarlets have won their last eight fixtures with the men from Gwent in the tournament since the Dragons won 15-13 at Rodney Parade on New Year’s Day 2008. The Dragons’ only previous win on Scarlets soil in the competition came at the old Stradey Park on September 1, 2007.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Morgan Stoddart.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Will Harries.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)
Ulster v Connacht
(Ravenhill - 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
Ulster top the Pro12 table and still have a game in hand over all their rivals, having won four from four so far to make their best-ever start to a campaign. The Ulstermen’s only defeat at Ravenhill since last October was to Leinster on April 20.
Connacht achieved their biggest-ever victory over Leinster on Friday night and are now seeking a third successive victory over their fellow Irish provinces for the first time since 1956.
Connacht’s only win in this competition over a rival province in their own backyard came against Leinster at Donnybrook on September 13, 2002.
Connacht are going for back-to-back victories over Ulster for the first time since 1997-98, but have not won at Ravenhill since November 16, 1960.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johan Muller (captain), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Willie Faloon (captain), 6 Dave Gannon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Nathan White, 19 John Muldoon, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Mata Fifita.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Eanna O'Dowd (Ireland), Brian Macneice (Ireland)
TMO: Ken Beggs (Ireland)
Zebre v Ospreys
(Stadio XXV Aprile - 19.05; 17.05 GMT)
Zebre gained their first-ever league point during Friday’s narrow 19-22 defeat at Glasgow despite being tied with just eight minutes remaining.
Just one previous Pro12 encounter has been played in Parma: Zebre losing there 17-30 to Connacht in round two.
Ospreys have won their last two games against Scarlets and Munster following losses in the first three rounds of the season. Ospreys have won five of their last six games played away from Liberty Stadium in the competition.
The Welshmen have already lost in Italy this campaign: 6-12 at Treviso in round one.
The two sides have not met before.
Zebre: 15 Daniel Halangahu, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (captain), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Alberto Chiesa, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Michael Van Vuren, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Flavio Tripodi, 19 Filippo Ferrarini, 20 Josh Sole, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Alberto Benettin, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Joe Bearman, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ross Jones, 23 Jonathan Spratt.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Filippo Bertelli (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Marrama (Italy)
Edinburgh v Treviso
(Murrayfield - 19.30; 18.30 GMT)
Edinburgh have slipped to successive defeats to Leinster and Newport Gwent Dragons although both encounters were played away from home.
Edinburgh have won four of their last five games at Murrayfield in all competitions and have never lost to an Italian side at the iconic venue.
Treviso gained a second victory of the Pro12 season, both of which have been gained at home at the expense of Welsh opponents.
Treviso have won just once on the road since last December: 33-32 at the Dragons on April 13. The Italians’ only previous win on Scottish soil in the Pro12 came at Glasgow in September 2011.
Edinburgh have lost just once before to Treviso: 6-31 at Stadio Monigo on May 6, 2011.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 9 Chris Leck, 8 Dimitri Basilaia, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 John Yapp, 18 Lewis Niven, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Richie Rees, 22 John Houston, 23 Dougie Fife.
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Iannone, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Tobias Botes, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Francesco Minto, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Enrico Ceccato, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Paul Derbyshire, 22 Kristopher Burton, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Gordon McMurray (Scotland)
Saturday, October 6
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors
(Arms Park - 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
The Cardiff Blues suffered their biggest-ever home defeat since the region was formed in 2003 when Ulster were the visitors to the Arms Park on Friday.
The Blues have already been defeated at home by a Scottish side this campaign, losing 19-21 to Edinburgh in round two.
The Glasgow Warriors have put together a run of three successive Pro12 victories, and have won four of their last five encounters with the Welsh regions.
Glasgow achieved the double over the Blues for the very first time last season and are going for an unprecedented third straight win over the Welshmen.
The Warriors’ only previous victory at the Arms Park came against Cardiff RFC in August 2002.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius (captain), 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Rory Watts-Jones, 5 Lou Reed, 4 James Down, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Taufa'ao Filise, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Dan Fish.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Finlay Gillies, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Ryan Grant, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Byron McGuigan, 23 Stuart Hogg.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (FIR, 3rd competition game)
Assistant referees: Tim Hayes, Phil Fear (both WRU)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)
Leinster v Munster
(Aviva Stadium - 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
Leinster suffered their largest Pro12 defeat for almost five years at Connacht on Friday evening, however Leinster have not lost successive encounters against the fellow Irish provinces since 2008/09.
The Leinstermen have a 100% winning record in their 11 previous Pro12 matches at Aviva Stadium/Lansdowne Road.
Munster’s last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only victory on the road in their last five games came at Edinburgh in round one.
The Munstermen have lost on their last three visits to Aviva Stadium/Lansdowne Road. Leinster have won seven of their last nine meetings with Munster in all competitions.
Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Fionn Carr.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (captain), 13 Keith Earls, 12 Casey Laulala, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Peter Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 James Downey.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 20th competition game)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson, Simon McDowell (both IRFU)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (IRFU)