Preview: Pro12, Round 12
The festive fixtures continue as return local derbies take place in Scotland, Wales and Italy during the Pro12's Round 12.
The festive fixtures continue as return local derbies take place in Scotland, Wales and Italy during the Pro12's Round 12.
Wales and Scotland are set to start the New Year with a game on New Year’s Day, as Cardiff Blues host Newport Gwent Dragons and after the Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland, Glasgow Warriors welcome Edinburgh to Scotstoun.
The Blues will be looking to restore their pride having succumbed to Dragons in the reverse of this fixture on Boxing Day, whilst in Scotland the aggregate winner of the traditional derby between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh can lay claim to the 1872 cup, a trophy Glasgow have held for the past four years.
As the festivities fade, Pro12 rugby returns once more to its Friday slot, with the first of the Irish derbies - Ulster welcoming table topping Munster to a packed Ravenhill Stadium.
Ulster have a formidable reputation at home and need this victory to try and reclaim their place in the top four, whilst Munster have lost only one game so far this season, so this is sure to be an epic encounter.
Ospreys, currently the only Welsh challenger in the play-off zone are also in action on Friday and visitors Scarlets know they must start winning if they too are to push for an end of season play-off spot.
The round wraps up on Saturday with games in Italy and Ireland.
Zebre were close to their first ever victory in Italy before a comeback by Treviso saw them claim the points last Saturday, but no more than eight points have separated the teams in this derby game in the past, so Zebre could be hopeful of their first win at home.
The final games sees the reigning champions, Leinster, travel from Dublin to the west of Ireland to face Connacht in Galway, always a tricky place to visit, but Leinster have done well there in the past.
We look at all the Round 12 games!
Wednesday, January 1
Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons
(Arms Park - Kick-off: 14.05; 14.05 GMT)
Cardiff Blues have not won in the Pro12 since Benetton Treviso visited the Arms Park in round 7.
The Blues only victory in their last four home matches in all tournaments was 29-20 over Glasgow Warriors in the European Cup on 6th December.
The Blues have lost their last four matches against fellow Welsh Regions in the Pro12.
Newport Gwent Dragons rose from 8th place to 6th in the Pro12 table with their 22-16 home win over the Blues on Boxing Day.
The Dragons only win in their last 11 away games in all competitions since February was 23-8 at Glasgow in the Pro12 on 22nd November.
The Men from Gwent have not beaten a fellow Welsh Region on their own soil since a trip to Swansea to face Ospreys on 30th October 2010.
Dragons have not achieved a season’s double against The Blues since the first season of Regional rugby a decade ago.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Rory Watts-Jones, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Gavin Evans.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Netani Talei, 5 Rob Sidoli (captain), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Dan Way, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Nic Cudd, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Ross Wardle.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Gwyn Morris (both Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh
(Scotstoun Stadium - Kick-off: 18.05; 18.05 GMT)
Their victory in the reverse of this fixture at Murrayfield on Boxing Day means that Glasgow Warriors last seven games in the Pro12 have all been won by the away side on the day.
The Warriors have slipped to defeat in their last three fixtures at Scotstoun in all tournaments since beating Exeter there in the European Cup on 20th October.
Edinburgh begin the first of four successive away games in the Pro12, having won just once on the road in the tournament since December 2012: 9-7 at Zebre in March.
Edinburgh have won only one of their last ten contests with Glasgow since 2008: 28-17 at Murrayfield on 2nd January 2011.
Edinburgh’s most recent victory on Glasgow soil was 25-16 at Hughenden on 27th December 2003.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro (captain), 6 Rob Harley, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 James Eddie, 21 Ryan Wilson, 22 Niko Matawalu, 23 Duncan Weir.
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Izak van der Westhuizen, 2 Mike Coman, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Tony Fenner, 23 Sam Beard.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Friday, January 3
Ospreys v Scarlets
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 19.15; 19.15 GMT)
Ospreys have won their last three matches in all tournaments since their 9-15 defeat in Castres in the European Cup on 6th December.
Ospreys were defeated in their last Pro12 fixture at Liberty Stadium, 16-28 to Glasgow, just their second home defeat in the competition since September 2012.
Ospreys have not lost at home to a fellow Welsh Region in the Pro12 since Dragons visited the Liberty Stadium in October 2010.
Scarlets have slipped to five straight losses in all tournaments since winning 24-21 in Connacht in the Pro12 on 23rd November.
Scarlets only victory in their last eleven encounters with Ospreys since 2007 was 22-14 at Parc y Scarlets on Boxing Day 2011, whilst Scarlets only previous win at Liberty Stadium was 14-9 on 11th September 2007.
Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Ben John, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tyler Ardron, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Richard Fussell.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Frazier Climo, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Jordan Williams.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason (both Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)
Ulster v Munster
(Ravenhill Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
Ulster’s 6-19 reversal against Leinster in Dublin on Saturday ended their five game winning run in all tournaments.
The Ulstermen have lost only once at Ravenhill Stadium in any tournament since February: 12-13 to Glasgow in the Pro12 on 13th September.
Ulster won all three home games against fellow Irish provinces last season.
Munster continue to top the Pro12 table, having suffered just one defeat in their last twelve matches in the competition: 19-29 in Treviso on 20th September.
The Munstermen have won their last four away games in all tournaments since their 23-29 loss in Edinburgh in the European Cup on 12th October. Munster have been defeated just once in their last six contests with fellow Irish provinces: 16-22 at home to Leinster in April.
The last five encounters between the two sides have all been won by the home team on the day, whilst Munster’s only victory at Ravenhill since 2007 was 16-6 on 29th October 2010.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack (captain), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Calum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Sean Doyle, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Michael Allen.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 John Ryan, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Dave Foley, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Johne Murphy.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Nigel Correll (both Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Saturday, January 4
Connacht v Leinster
(Sportsground - Kick-off: 19.15; 19.15 GMT)
Connacht have won only once in the Pro12 since round one: 14-11 at home to the Dragons on 21st December, they are attempting to win back to back games at the Sportsground for the first time since March.
Connacht have not beaten a fellow Irish Province since the last time that Leinster visited Galway, on 28th September 2012.
Leinster’s only defeat in their last six Pro12 encounters was 6-11 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in round 10.
The Leinstermen have won just once away to a fellow Irish Province since April 2012: 22-16 at Munster on 13th April 2013.
Connacht have won just one of their last seven contests with Leinster: 34-6 at The Sportsground on 28th September 2012.
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 John Muldoon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Craig Clarke (captain), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Dave Kearney.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Ollie Hodges (both Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Zebre v Benetton Treviso
(Stadio Aprile XXV - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Zebre gained a second successive losing bonus point during their 15-20 defeat in Treviso on Saturday, and have gained more league points on the road this season than they have at home.
Benetton Treviso ended an eight game losing run in all tournaments with their victory in the reverse of this fixture last time out and are attempting to achieve back to back victories in the tournament for the first time since Christmas last year, also against Zebre.
The two side have met on three previous occasions with Treviso taking each encounter and Zebre gaining two losing bonus points along the way.
Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Roberto Quartaroli, 22 Giulio Toniolatti, 23 Filippo Ferrarini.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Christian Loamanu, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Marco Filippucci, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Andrea Spadoni (both Italy)
TMO: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)