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Preview: Pro12, Round 17

Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:16
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Three of the top four teams are Irish
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With the Six Nations over the club  tournament of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy takes centre stage once again as round 17 kicks off this Friday.
 
Having led Leinster to the Pro12 title last season, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took the 6 Nations crown at
the first time of asking in a tense finish to the Championship last weekend.
 
Following on Ireland’s success it is perhaps appropriate that as the Pro12 returns to centre stage three of the top four teams are Irish Provinces.
 
Schmidt’s former team, Leinster are in action in Dublin on Friday night, they and Munster both host Italian opposition in
round 17 and whilst the records seem to point in favour of two home wins, neither side can afford to slip up as they chase a
top two finish.
 
Third placed Ulster are also in action on Friday night, their bonus point win over Scarlets in their rearranged game last week
has pulled them closer to the leaders as the battle for home advantage in the play-offs intensifies.
 
Ospreys, the only non-Irish side currently in the Play-Off Zone, know they have a fight on their hands to maintain that
position as Glasgow Warriors are just three points behind them but still have two games in hand.
 
Ospreys face fellow Welsh Region Cardiff Blues on Friday night, whereas Glasgow Warriors welcome Scarlets on Saturday, the Welshmen
did not make up any ground on the top four in their rearranged fixture last week.
 
The next two weeks could be critical in any team’s aspirations of making the end of season play-offs as the pressure starts
to build towards the season finale.
 
We look at all the Round 17 matches!
 
Friday, March 21:
 
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
 
Ospreys have won their last twelve contests with fellow Welsh regions in the Pro12 and have not lost at home to a Welsh opponent since Newport Gwent Dragons visited Liberty Stadium in October 2010.
 
Cardiff Blues have secured only one victory in their last nine Pro12 fixtures: 21-13 at home to Dragons on New Year's Day.
 
The Blues are one of three sides still without an away win in the Pro12 this season and have not been victorious on their travels since defeating Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 15th February 2013.
 
The Blues last two wins away from home at a fellow Welsh Region in the Pro12 were both against Dragons, in 2010 and 2012.
 
Ospreys have won their last five encounters with the Blues in the Pro12 since their 21-all draw at Liberty Stadium in 2011, the Capital side have however already beaten Ospreys at Liberty Stadium this season, but that victory was in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November.
 
Teams:
 
Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Morgan Allen, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
 
Cardiff Blues:  15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Chris Dicomidis, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Isaia Tuifua.
 
Referee: Nigel Owens 
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason 
TMO: Derek Bevan 
 
Leinster v Zebre
(Royal Dublin Society - Kick-off: 19.15, 19:.5 GMT)
 
The Leinstermen are unbeaten at the Royal Dublin Society stadium in any competition since Ulster were the visitors in the Pro12 on 30th March 2013.
 
Zebre achieved their third victory of the season in their last contest at home to Cardiff Blues and are now attempting to record back to back victories for the first time.
 
Leinster have won all three previous contests between the two sides.
 
Teams:
 
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Issac Boss, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Michael Bent
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Brendan Macken
 
Zebre: 15 David Odiete, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Giovanbattista Venditti, 12 Kameli Ratuvou, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Tommaso Iannone, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 George Biagi, 3 David Ryan, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Salvatore Perugini
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Michael van Vuuren, 20 Guglielmo Palazzani, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Emiliano Caffini, 23 Fillipo Cristiano.
 
Referee: Marius Mitrea 
Assistant Referees: Kieran Barry, Andy Brace 
TMO: Kevin Beggs 
 
Edinburgh v Ulster
(Murrayfield - Kick-off: 19.45, 19.45 GMT)
 
Edinburgh have won four of their last five Pro12 fixtures at Murrayfield.
 
The Scotsmen have won their last three home games against Irish provinces in all competitions.
 
Ulster Rugby have won their last seven matches in all tournaments since their loss to Leinster at the Royal Dublin Society stadium in round 11 of the Pro12. 
 
Ulster have secured bonus point victories in their last two Pro12 games, over Dragons and Scarlets.
 
The last four matches between the two sides in the Pro12 have all been won by the home side on the day whilst the Ulstermen's most recent victory at Edinburgh came in January 2012.
 
Teams:
 
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (captain), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Al Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blauw, 18 Ewan McQuillin, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Nick De Luca.
 
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Robbie Diack, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Stuart McCloskey.
 
Referee: John Lacey
Assistant Referees: Neil Paterson, Bob Nevins 
TMO: TBC
 
Saturday, March 22:
 
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets
(Scotstoun Stadium - Kick-off 18.30, 18.30 GMT)
 
The Warriors 8-6 victory at home to Connacht in their most recent match at Scotstoun on 9 February ended a four game losing run in all competitions at the venue.
 
Scarlets were defeated 13-26 at Ulster in their rearranged game on 14th March to end a three game winning run in the Pro12. 
 
Scarlets have been victorious their last three visits to Scotland.
 
Glasgow beat Scarlets 17-12 at Parc y Scarlets in round 5 and are going for a first season's double over the Welshmen since season 2009/10.
 
Scarlets have won on two of their last three visits to Glasgow.
 
Teams:
 
 Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Chris Cusiter (captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Moray Low, 19 Al Kellock, 20 Leone Nakarawa, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Mark Bennett, 23 Sean Maitland.
 
 Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Richard Kelly, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Gareth Maule.
 
Referee: Alain Rolland 
Assistant Referees: Lloyd Linton , David Changleng 
TMO: Jim Yuille 
 
Munster v Treviso
(Thomond Park - Kick-off: 19.15, 19.15 GMT)
 
The Munstermen are the only side left in the Pro12 with a 100% home winning record this season.
 
Benetton Treviso have slipped to seven straight defeats in all tournaments since beating Zebre 20-15 at Stadio Monigo over Christmas.
 
Treviso's only away victory in any tournaments since December 2012 was when they visited Scarlets in round 22 of the Pro12 last season.
 
Treviso have won their last two matches against Munster, but both games were played at Stadio Monigo.
 
No Italian side has ever beaten Munster on their own soil.
 
Teams:
 
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 John Ryan, 2 Damien Varley (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Gerry Hurley, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Simon Zebo.
 
Treviso: 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Christian Loamanu, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Filippucci, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Corniel Van Zyl, 21 Luke McLean, 22 Tobias Botes, 23 James Ambrosini.
 
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll, David Connolly 
TMO: Dermot Moloney
 
Sunday, March 23:
 
Dragons v Connacht
(Rodney Parade - Kick-off: 15.05, 15.05 GMT)
 
The Dragons have not been defeated at Rodney Parade in the competition since Munster were the visitors in round 9.
 
The Welshmen have lost their last six matches against Irish provinces.
 
Connacht have won their last three Pro12 fixtures but have not won four in a row in the competition since season 2002/03.
 
Connacht have not won successive away games in the competition since March 2005.
 
The Men from Gwent have won only one of their last five contests with Connacht: 14-3 at Rodney Parade in November 2012.
 
Teams:
 
Dragons: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Ross Wardle, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Andrew Coombs (captain), 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Owen Evans. 
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Phil Price, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Matthew Pewtner.
 
Connacht:15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Eoghan Masterson, 6 John Muldoon (captain), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Nathan White, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Leader.
 
Referee: George Clancy 
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Simon Rees 
TMO: Gareth Simmonds 
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