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Preview: Pro12, Round 19

Fri, 11 Apr 2014 06:23
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Only four rounds left
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There are only four rounds left in this year's Pro12 and with the play-off zone seeing changes week-by-week, every game becomes vital.
 
The pick of the weeks matches must be Glasgow Warriors taking on second place Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday.
 
The Warriors took their opportunity and turned one of their games in hand into points last weekend, overcoming Benetton Treviso in their rearranged fixture and climbing back into the play-off Zone in the process.
 
The Scotsmen still have a further game still in hand it is not inconceivable that Warriors could take the home semi-final spot off their opponents before the end of the season. This is a must win game for both teams.
 
Table toppers Leinster are in action on Friday night against Ospreys, the team Glasgow displaced from the top four.
 
With only four rounds of the regular season left Ospreys will know that every point counts in their bid to reach the
play-offs whilst Leinster will be aiming to secure that vital home semi-final advantage.
 
The remaining top four team, Ulster, are also in action on Friday night welcoming fellow Irish province Connacht to Ravenhill. 
 
Ulster too will have their eye on the much sought after home semi-final spot, but must also be wary as any slip up could let Glasgow Warriors climb above them in the table.
 
Edinburgh face a Cardiff Blues side fresh from a home win over a high flying Ulster side and, while it has been over a year since they last won on the road, that success came at the expense of their hosts tomorrow night.
 
Mindful of their recent success, Solomons said: "Cardiff are a good side, who fully deserved their win against Ulster, so we know we are going to have a tough game on Friday night."
 
"They have some very good players in key positions who will present a big physical challenge, and their kicker has amongst the highest percentages in the Pro12, so our discipline has got to be good."
 
Solomons revealed that the players were looking forward to the more compact quarters.
 
"The players really enjoyed the atmosphere at Meggetland for the Ospreys match," he added.
 
"The ground was packed and the supporters were really close to the pitch, which is something they relish."
 
"There is a really good spirit building and a good sense of togetherness, and it's been positive for the squad to see that progress is being made."
 
"Under tough conditions they came out with a win against Dragons and I think that merited the team remaining in tact for the next match."
 
"This is another very important game for us. If we want to finish in the top half of the table then this is a game we have to win."
 
"However, as we have said all season, we must not put the cart before the horse."
 
"We must perform well in order to have the prospect of getting a result."
 
There is no easy game between now and the end of the season, and with Munster the sole Pro12 representatives remaining in the European Cup, all eyes will be on the prize of the of the glittering Pro12.
 
We look at all the Round 18 games!
 
Friday, April 11 
 
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues
(Meggetland - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.35 GMT)
 
Edinburgh Rugby won their rearranged fixture at Newport Gwent Dragons on Thursday and have won the only previous match they have played at Meggetland: 31-25 against the Ospreys on February 28. 
 
The Scotsmen have won their last two matches against Welsh regions.
 
Cardiff Blues beat Ulster 28-23 in round 18 to end a five game losing run in the Pro12. 
 
The Welshmen have not won away from home in the tournament since they last visited Edinburgh on February 15 2013 - winning 17-16 at Murrayfield.
 
Edinburgh’s only victory over Cardiff Blues in their last seven meetings in the Pro12 was 21-19 at the Arms Park in
September 2012.
 
Teams:
 
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 David Denton, 7 Cornell Du Preez, 6 Mike Coman (Captain), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.   
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Carl Bezuidenhout, 23 Sam Beard.
 
Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Isaia Tuifua, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Dafydd Hewitt
 
Referee: Dudley Phillips 
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Graeme Marshall 
 
Ospreys v Leinster
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
 
Ospreys’ only victory in their last four Pro12 fixtures was 34-9 over Cardiff Blues at Liberty Stadium in round 17.
 
Ospreys have won just one of their last eleven contests with Irish provinces in all tournaments: 43-26 over Connacht in Galway on September 28.
 
Leinster have won their last eight Pro12 matches since their 6-11 reversal to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on December 20. 
 
The Leinstermen are unbeaten in their last 14 fixtures with Welsh regions in all tournaments.
 
The two sides have met on three occasions this season with Leinster winning home and away in the European Cup, but sharing a 29-all draw in round 2 of the Pro12.
 
Ospreys have won their last three games against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium in the Pro12.
 
Teams:
 
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck,11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Captain), 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
 
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Gordon D'Arcy, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip , 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen (captian), 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Collie O'Shea, 23 Darragh Fanning.
 
Referee: Marius Mitrea 
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Jon Mason 
TMO: Gareth Simmonds 
 
Saturday, 12 April
 
Ulster v Connacht
(Ravenhill Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
 
Ulster’s six game winning run in the Pro12 ended when they were defeated 23-28 in Cardiff in round 18. 
 
The Ulstermen have lost just once at Ravenhill in the competition in their last 14 matches: 12-13 to Glasgow Warriors on  September 13.
 
Ulster have won their last four home games against fellow Irish provinces.
 
Connacht’s four game winning run in the Pro12 ended in Llanelli on March 30.
 
Connacht have lost their last nine contests with fellow Irish provinces, and have not beaten a province on their own soil since a trip to Donnybrook in September 2002.
 
Connacht’s only victory over Ulster in their last 15 fixtures was 26-21 in Galway in April 2012, whilst they have not
won at Ravenhill since November 1960.
 
Teams:
 
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Stuart McCloskey.
 
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 Finlay Bealham, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Leader.
 
Referee: Ian Davies 
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Paul Haycock 
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)
 
Treviso v Newport Dragons
(Stadio Monigo - Kick-off: 19.00; 17.00 GMT; 18.00 BST)
 
Benetton Treviso’s solo victory in their last seven Pro12 encounters was 20-16 at home to Edinburgh on March 29.
 
Trevsio have not beaten a Welsh opponent this season, the closest they came was a 26-all draw at home to Cardiff Blues on November 30.
 
Newport Dragons have won only one Pro12 match since round 11: 24-23 at home to Glasgow on February 23.
 
Dragons are unbeaten in their last eight games against Italian opponents since they lost in Treviso in December 2012.
 
The two sides have met on six previous occasions in the Pro12 with the Italians having the edge by four wins to two, whilst Dragon’s only previous victory at Stadio Monigo came on 8th December 2007 in the European Cup.
 
Teams:
 
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Paul Derbyshire, 6 Marco Filippucci, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Giovanni Maistri, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 James Ambrosini.
 
Dragons: TBC
 
Referee: George Clancy 
Assistant Referees: Stefano Traversi, Giorgio Sgardolo 
TMO: Alan Falzone 
 
Scarlets v Zebre
(Parc y Scarlets - Kick-off: 18.30; 17.30 GMT; 17.30 Italian time)
 
Scarlets have won their last four matches at Parc y Scarlets in all tournaments, since Harlequins beat them there in the European Cup on January 19.
 
Scarlets only defeat to an Italian opponent in their last six such contests was at home to Treviso in round 22 last season.
 
Zebre drew 25-all at home to the Dragons in round 18 and are attempting to achieve back to back undefeated games for the first time. 
 
Zebre’s record against Welsh regions this season is won 2, drawn 2, lost 2.
 
The two sides have met on three previous occasions, Scarlets winning both games last season but sharing a 16-all
draw in Parma in round 6 this campaign.
 
Teams: 
 
Scarlets:  15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Sione Timani. 7 Josh Tunrbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil John, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Richard Kelly, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Gareth Maule.
 
Zebre: TBC
 
Referee: Andrew McMenemy 
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies, Chris Williams 
TMO: Tim Hayes 
 
Munster v Warriors
(Thomond Park - Kick-off: 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
 
Munster’s last three matches in the RaboDirect Pro12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Munstermen have won all 13 home games they have played in all tournaments this season. 
 
No Scottish side has won on Munster soil since the Warriors themselves won at Musgrave Park in May 2008.
 
Glasgow Warriors have won their last three matches, which have all been played at Scotstoun.
 
The Warriors have lost their last two away games since beating the Blues at the Arms Park in February. Glasgow have won on three of their last five visits to Ireland.
 
Glasgow have been victorious just once in their last eight fixtures with Munster: 51-24 at Scotstoun in March 2013,whilst their only previous victory at Thomond Park came on 18th February 2006.
 
Teams:
 
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan (captain), 7 Sean Dougall, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Dave Foley, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 John Ryan
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Alan Cotter, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Johne Murphy.
 
Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Finn Russell, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Chris Cusiter (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Richie Vernon.
 
 
Referee: Nigel Owens 
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, David Connolly 
TMO: John Carvill
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