Preview Pro12, Round Nine
Round Nine of the Pro12 is evenly split with three games on Friday night and three on Saturday.
Round Nine of the Pro12, the last round of games before the return of the European competition, is evenly split with three games on Friday night and three on Saturday.
Table-topping Munster must be wary on their Friday night trip to Wales as their opponents, Newport Gwent Dragons, defeated Glasgow Warriors at their fortress home of Scotstoun last time out.
Munster are building up a good lead at the top of the table, they are already four points and two wins clear of their nearest rivals whilst just two points separate the next four teams in the table.
Two of those four teams face each other on Friday night when second-placed Ospreys host fourth in the table Glasgow Warriors at the Liberty Stadium. Success for the visitors could see them leapfrog over their hosts in the rankings.
Elsewhere, defending champions Leinster welcome Scarlets to the RDS in Dublin on Saturday, the visitors keen to avoid any loss if they are to maintain their push for the play-offs, whilst Ulster are on the road to Italy to face Zebre.
The Irish province broke Zebre hearts last year when a penalty try five minutes from time secured them the points denying Zebre a first victory in the Pro12.
We look at all the Round Nine matches!
Friday, November 29:
Edinburgh v Connacht
(Murrayfield - Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Edinburgh have lost only once at Murrayfield in any competition this season: 9-22 to the Scarlets in Round Four of the Pro12. The Scotsmen have won just one of their last six fixtures with Irish provinces in 2013: 14-8 over Ulster at Murrayfield in March.
Connacht have slipped to seven straight defeats in the Pro12 since their opening weekend victory at home to Zebre. The Irishmen have not won away from home in the tournament since their most recent trip to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh on April 12. This remains their only victory in their last six encounters with Scottish opponents.
Both of the fixtures between the two sides in last season’s Pro12 campaign were won by the away side on the day, whilst Connacht are going for back-to-back victories over Edinburgh for the first time in their history.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Al Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Tom Brown.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Aly Muldowney, 5 Craig Clarke (captain), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Ronan Loughney.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Gavin Duffy.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Neil Paterson (Scotland), Stephen Ward (Scotland)
Newport Gwent Dragons v Munster
(Rodney Parade - Kick-off: 19.15; 19.15 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last two matches in all tournaments, beating Wasps at Rodney Parade in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and Glasgow at Scotstoun in the Pro12. Dragons’ only defeat in their last seven contests at Rodney Parade in all tournaments was 19-23 to Leinster on November 1.
Table-topping Munster have won their last five fixtures in the Pro12 since Treviso handed them their only defeat so far this season in Italy in Round Three. The Munstermen have won all three previous clashes with Welsh regions this campaign.
The Dragons’ only victory in their last six fixtures with Munster was 30-24 in this equivalent fixture last season, played on April 19. The Munstermen’s only win on their last four visits to Rodney Parade was 24-14 on March 3, 2012.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ross Wardle 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Robert Sidoli (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Francisco Chaparro, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Dan Way, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Ashley Smith.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Billy Holland (captain), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 James Cronin, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Barry O'Mahony, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ivan Dineen
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
Ospreys reside in second place on the Pro12 table despite having lost two of their last four matches, to Ulster and Munster. The Welshmen’s solo defeat in their last 13 Pro12 encounters at Liberty Stadium was 12-18 to Ulster on October 4.
Glasgow Warriors topped the Pro12 standings at the end of Round Five but two defeats in their last three fixtures has seen them drop to fourth spot. The Warriors’ only defeat away from home in any tournament this season was at Toulon in the European Cup.
Glasgow have been victorious ion five of their last six visits to Wales since January 2012. Glasgow have won their last four matches against Ospreys and have not lost at Liberty Stadium since March 5, 2011.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Ben John, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 James King, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones (captain).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Graham Knoop, 20 Arthur Ellis, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Aisea Natoga.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 DTH Van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 James Eddie, 21 Ryan Wilson, 22 Henry Pyrgos, 23 Finn Russell.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)
Saturday, November 30
Treviso v Cardiff Blues
(Stadio Monigo - Kick-off: 17.00; 16 GMT)
Treviso have slipped to three narrow defeats in the last three rounds of the Pro12 but at least earned themselves a losing bonus point on each occasion. Treviso’s 20-21 defeat to Leinster on Sunday was only their second home defeat in the tournament since November 2012, whilst they have secured at least one league point form each of their last 11 games at Stadio Monigo.
Cardiff Blues have not won away from home in the Pro12 since a visit to Edinburgh on February 15, whilst the Blues’ record in Italy in all tournaments is an impressive won eight, lost one. Treviso’s only previous victory over Cardiff Blues came in this equivalent fixture last season, a game played on March 23.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Dean Budd, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Mark Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Alberto De Marchi
Replacements: 16 Enrico Ceccato, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Marco Filippucci, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 James Ambrosini
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 James Down, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain)
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Rory Watts-Jones, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Thomas Young, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Simon Humberstone.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Claudio Blessano (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Leinster v Scarlets
(Royal Dublin Society - Kick-off: 19.15; 19.15 GMT)
Leinster have won their last five contests in all competitions since losing the interprovincial clash with Munster at Thomond Park on October 5. The Leinstermen’s single defeat at the RDS in any tournament since the 2012 Pro12 Final was 18-22 to Ulster on March 30. The Irishmen have not been defeated by a Welsh region since they visited Liberty Stadium in November 2012.
Scarlets only defeat in their last five Pro12 matches was 12-17 at home to Glasgow in Round Five. The Welshmen have lost just once away from home in the Pro12 this season: 16-23 at the Dragons in Round Three, whilst they have already won in Ireland this season, 24-21 at Connacht on Saturday.
Scarlets have beaten Leinster only once in their last dozen encounters in all tournaments since September 2009: 45-20 at Parc y Scarlets in the Pro12 in September 2012. The Scarlets’ only previous victory at the RDS came on their first ever visit to the stadium on October 5, 2007.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lote Tuqiri, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Darragh Fanning.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nic Reynolds, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4; Jake Ball, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (captain).
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Jordan Williams.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), S Douglas (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Zebre v Ulster
(Stadio XXV Aprile - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Zebre are without a win in their last five Pro12 matches but did draw 16-all at home to Scarlets in Round Six. Zebre have lost all 10 previous matches they have played against Irish provinces, earning just three losing bonus points and one try bonus from those encounters.
Ulster’s only loss in their last eight matches in all tournaments was 9-17 at Scarlets in Round Seven of the Pro12. The Ulstermen have lost only once to an Italian opponent in any tournament: 12-23 at home to Treviso in the Pro12 in October 2011.
The two sides have met on two previous occasions, Ulster winning narrowly in Parma last November and more easily in Belfast in February.
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Iannone, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Alberto Chilloni, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Roberto Quartaroli
Ulster: 15 R Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Robbie Diack (captain), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Neil McComb, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Craig Joyce, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Michael Allen.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Stefano Roscini (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)