Preview: Pro12, Round Six
Some of the biggest rugby stadiums across the UK and Ireland will host fixtures in Round Six as the "Big Weekend" will also seek to create new rivalries between the Italian and Scottish teams outside of their own national derby games.
The exciting and record-setting rugby on offer this season has driven up the anticipation for the Championship's first-ever "Big Weekend". The tournament organisers have taken the tribal clashes and new rivalries and grouped them into six rounds across the season to give supporters an unprecedented showcase within Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
The "Big Weekend" also seeks to provide clubs with the best possible preparation for European competition ahead of the first rounds of the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup.
Ulster remain the only unbeaten team in the Championship after five rounds but they will have a tough challenge going up against defending champions Connacht, who finally claimed their first win of the season against Edinburgh last weekend.
The Scots will now entertain Benetton Treviso in Edinburgh and with both sides having won just one game each so far, they will be battling it out to get some rhythm going ahead of their European campaigns.
Leinster and Munster will meet at Aviva Stadium, the venue for this season's final, with each province enjoying strong form with four wins out of five. Zebre will hope that their strong home performances can translate into a first victory of the season as they host Glasgow Warriors, who lie in sixth position but are just five points away from Championship leaders Ulster.
The Friday night game at Swansea's Liberty Stadium between Ospreys and Cardiff Blues will see best performing Welsh regions come together in a game where both sides will be eager to regain momentum after fast starts to the season.
Having won three games from three, Ospreys have now lost two games in a row while Cardiff Blues' early-season charge was halted by Leinster at the Cardiff Arms Park. Some of the most effective attacking players will be on show as Reynold Lee-Lo, Nick Williams and Tom James should all be part of a Cardiff Blues team that will have their hands full when taking an Ospreys team containing Sam Davies, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric.
All the weekend's matches!
Friday, October 7
Connacht v Ulster
(The Sportsground, Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Connacht earned the first league point of their campaign courtesy of a bonus point victory over Edinburgh in Galway on Friday. The reigning champions finished last season with a won four lost three record against fellow Irish provinces in the Championship.
Ulster maintained their perfect start to the new campaign with a fifth successive victory, albeit a narrow one, over Ospreys in Belfast on Saturday. Ulster's only defeat in their last five away games came in last season's semifinal against Leinster.
Connacht have beaten Ulster just once in their last twenty encounters.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Finlay Bealham.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 James Connolly, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Shane O'Leary, 23 Stacey Ili.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne (captain), 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Clive Ross, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Pete Browne, 4 Robbie Diack, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rory Best, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips, Leo Colgan (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Edinburgh v Benetton Treviso
(Murrayfield, Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Edinburgh have won just once in the last nine rounds. The Scotsmen's only defeat to an Italian opponent in their last seven such meetings was 11-19 to Zebre in Parma on October 24, 2015.
Benetton Treviso have won just one of their last half a dozen matches. Treviso have not won away from home since beating Zebre 26-16 in Parma in December 2014.
Edinburgh have won their last four fixtures against Treviso since the Italians' 20-16 victory at Stadio Monigo in March 2014. Treviso's most recent victory in Scotland was against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in October 2012.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Ewan McQuillin, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 John Hardie, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Glenn Bryce, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Andrea Buondonno, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Filippo Gerosa, 20 Andrea Pratichetti, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 David Odiete.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys (Thomas, Dunc McClement (Scotland)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
(Liberty Stadium, Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Ospreys began the campaign with three maximum point victories but have since slipped to successive defeats, away to Irish provinces Leinster and Ulster. Ospreys have lost just one of their last eight fixtures against fellow Welsh regions.
Cardiff Blues' five game winning run was snapped at home to Leinster on Saturday. Blues have won their last four away games in the Championship to equal their best ever sequence on the road set in 2010.
Ospreys have won their last 10 fixtures against Blues since a 21-all draw at the Liberty Stadium in April 2011, whilst the capital side's most recent Championship victory over their western neighbours came at the Cardiff City Stadium on New Year's Eve 2010.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Ashley Beck.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Gareth Newman (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Saturday, October 8
Leinster v Munster
(Aviva Stadium, Kick-off: 14.05, 13.05 GMT)
Leinster's solitary defeat in the opening five rounds was 25-33 against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on 10 September. The Leinstermen's only reversal at Aviva Stadium in the Championship was against Munster in October 2014.
Munster have lost just one of their last seven fixtures and that by a single point against Cardiff Blues in Cork on September 9. Munster's only win in their last five encounters with Irish provinces was 9-7 over Ulster in Belfast on January 2.
Leinster achieved the season's double over Munster in 2015/16 to reverse the two Munster successes the previous season. The last seven meetings between the two old foes at the headquarters of Irish rugby have resulted in six Leinster wins and one by Munster.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Richard Kerr (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Kick-off: 17.05, 15.05 GMT)
Zebre have not been victorious since a 47-22 win over Newport Gwent Dragons in Parma in Round 22 of last season. Zebre have won just one of their last seven fixtures against Scottish opponents and have never previously won in Scotland.
Glasgow Warriors returned to winning ways at Dragons on Friday following a pair of reversals, to Cardiff Blues and Ulster. The Scotsmen have won their last 19 encounters with Italian opponents since tripping up at home to Treviso in September 2011.
Zebre have yet to beat Glasgow in eight previous meetings and have not tallied a losing bonus point against them for over three years.
Glasgow Warriors: TBC
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Cammy Rudkin (Scotland), Andrea Spadoni (Italy)
Scarlets v Newport-Gwent Dragons
(Parc y Scarlets, Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Scarlets were pointless after the first three rounds of the campaign but have since reeled off successive victories, at home to Connacht and in Treviso. The West Walians have lost their last two home games against fellow Welsh regions since they beat Dragons at Parc y Scarlets at the end of October 2015.
Newport Gwent Dragons have recorded just one victory in their last nine fixtures in all competitions. Dragons have not beaten a fellow Welsh region on their own soil since visiting Cardiff on Boxing Day 2014.
Scarlets' solitary defeat in their last 15 Championship encounters with Dragons was 16-23 at Rodney Parade in September 2013. Dragons' only victory on Scarlets soil since the two regions were formed in 2003 was 30-23 at the old Stradey Park in September 2007.
Newport-Gwent Dragons: TBC
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)