Preview: Pro12, Round Three
CELTIC SPOTLIGHT: Ospreys created history last Saturday by becoming the first outfit in the history of the championship to record six consecutive try bonus-points in a run of games that dates back to April.
Ospreys are also vying with Glasgow Warriors to become the first outfit to ever claim maximum points across the first three games of the season.
Glasgow Warriors travel south to face Cardiff Blues, where Danny Wilson's troops have made a fantastic start to the season as they backed up their bonus-point win over Edinburgh in Round One with a dramatic victory in Cork against Munster.
Just one point separates the teams in the table and only one team will leave Cardiff Arms Park with their unbeaten record intact.
However, Cardiff Blues will have their work cut out to break Glasgow's winning streak over the Welsh region, which stands at 10 games.
Round Two of the Pro12 saw an early push from Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors to put Wales and Scotland well on the road to having a representative in this season's Final in Dublin on May 27.
All three sides have won two games from two, while Ulster have also maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a hard-fought victory away to Benetton Treviso.
The highlight of the round came at Scotstoun Stadium on Saturday where Glasgow Warriors and Leinster played out an eight-try thriller on the new artificial surface.
Five of the away teams will be travelling with intent this weekend as Scarlets, Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Benetton Treviso are all looking to bounce back from their defeats in Round Two.
Top Performers in Round Two - powered by Opta Statistics
Metres gained: Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons) 164
Carries: Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons) 20
Clean Breaks: Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 5
Defenders Beaten: Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 8
Tackles Made: George Earle (Cardiff Blues), Simone Favaro & Tim Swinson (Glasgow) 16
Turnovers Won: Federico Ruzza (Zebre) & Jack O'Donoghue (Munster) 3
Offloads: Andrea Buondonno (Benetton Treviso) & Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons) 3
We look at the Round Three action!
Friday, September 16
CARDIFF BLUES v GLASGOW WARRIORS
(Cardiff Arms Park - Kick-off: 19.00, 18.00 GMT)
Cardiff Blues have lost just one of their last eight Pro12 encounters: to Ospreys on "Judgement Day" in April Blues have never started a Pro12 campaign with three successive victories.
Cardiff Blues have been defeated at Cardiff Arms Park just once since last November, 13-14 to Leinster in February.
Glasgow Warriors have begun with a pair of maximum point victories in the Pro12 - no side has ever tallied 15 points after three rounds.
The Scotsmen have not been defeated by a Welsh Region since Scarlets visited Scotstoun in Round One last season.
Warriors have won their last ten fixtures against Blues in the Pro12 since the Welshmen's 26-15 victory at Firhill in February 2011.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Blaine Scully.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Mark Bennett, 23 Rory Hughes.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Simon Rees (Wales)
ULSTER v SCARLETS
(Kingspan Stadium - Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
Ulster's solitary defeat in their last seven Pro12 matches was to Leinster at the RDS Arena in last season's semifinal.
The last time the Ulstermen started a Pro12 campaign with three straight victories was in season 2012/13, where they did not lose their first match until Round 12.
Ulster have lost just once at Kingspan Stadium since early January: 20-21 to Scarlets on 21 February.
Scarlets have won only one of their last six Pro12 fixtures: over Newport Gwent Dragons on "Judgement Day" in April.
Scarlets only victory in their last twelve visits to an Irish province in any tournament was in Belfast in February.
Scarlets won both matches against Ulster in the Pro12 last season but have never won three in a row against the Irish province.
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Stuart Olding, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Lewis Rawlins, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Scott Williams, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Cammy Rudkin (Scotland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
EDINBURGH v LEINSTER
(Murrayfield - Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35)
Edinburgh's 20-9 victory over Scarlets at Murrayfield on Friday ended a four-game losing run in the Pro12.
The Scotsmen have lost their last six encounters against Irish provinces since beating Ulster 16-10 at Murrayfield last October.
Leinster's last nine regular season fixtures in the Pro12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their most recent win on the road came on a visit to Zebre in February.
Leinster have won only once in Scotland since January 2013: 36-23 against Edinburgh in May 2015.
The Leinstermen's only defeat to Edinburgh in their last five fixtures was 9-16 at Meggetland in September 2015.
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Sasa Tofilau, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Isa Nacewa (captain), 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Rory O'Loughlin.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Emanuele Tomo (Italy), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Saturday, September 17
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS v MUNSTER
(Rodney Parade - Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons long unwanted winless run in the Pro12 ended with their 11-6 victory over Zebre at Rodney Parade last Friday.
Dragons have not beaten an Irish province since a 23-13 victory at home to Leinster in January.
Munster's three-game winning run in the Pro12 was halted by Cardiff Blues in Cork last Friday.
The Munstermen were victorious at Scarlets in Round One but have not won successive matches in Wales since November 2014.
Munster have lost just one of their last six fixtures against Dragons: 6-22 at Rodney Parade in this equivalent fixture last season.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Pat Howard, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ed Jackson', 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Rhys Buckley,
1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James Thomas, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Angus O'Brien, 23 Adam Warren.
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Jack O'Donoghue, 6 Billy Holland (captain), 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Brian Scott, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Colm O'Shea.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Claudio Blessano (Italy), Rob Price (Wales)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)
OSPREYS v BENETTON TREVISO
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Ospreys only defeat in their last six Pro12 matches was 26-46 at home to Ulster in round 22 last season, a sequence which has seen them claim a try bonus point in each of those encounters and break the Championship record in the process.
No side has ever started a Pro12 campaign with maximum points after three rounds.
Benetton Treviso's only victory since February was 22-21 at home to Connacht in Round 21.
The Italians have not won away from home since the short trip to Zebre in December 2014.
Treviso have beaten Ospreys just once in the Pro12, 12-6 at Stadio Monigo in August 2012, but they have beaten them twice at the same venue in the European Champions Cup in 2013 and 2015.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dafydd Howells, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield (captain), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Keelan Giles.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 David Odiete, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Andrea Buondonno, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Filippo Gerosa, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Roberto Santamaria, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Guglielmo Zanini, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Andrea Pratichetti.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Graeme Wells (Scotland), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
ZEBRE v CONNACHT
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi - Kick-off: 18.05; 17.05 Ireland & UK; 16.05 GMT)
Zebre are the only side in the Pro12 yet to have played at home this season.
Zebre won their most recent game in Parma 47-22 against Dragons in round 22 last season but have not won successive matches at the venue since last October.
The reigning Pro12 Champions, Connacht, have begun the defence of their title with a pair of home defeats, to Glasgow Warriors and Ospreys.
Connacht have not won away from home since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield in early March whilst their only defeat in Italy since October 2013 came on their most recent visit to Treviso in April.
Connacht have a perfect played 12, won 12 record against Zebre in all competitions.
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Venditti Giovanbattista, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 D’Apice Tommaso, 17 Postiglioni Bruno, 18 Guillermo Roan/Dario Chistolini, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Kayle van Zyl.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 James Connolly, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 JP Cooney, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rory Moloney, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Shane O'Leary, 23 Matt Healy.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Riccardo Angelucci (Italy)