PREVIEW: Pro12, Round 20
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The fifth 'Big Weekend' will be packed with action and tribal rivalries as the Pro12 enters the final laps of the season.
Derby games will grab the headlines in Ireland and Wales, particularly in Cardiff where the Millennium Stadium plays host to Judgement Day V where all four regional teams will compete.
Teams are running out of time to reach the Pro12 Final Series, earn home semifinals, qualify for the Champions Cup or secure their seeding, which makes the final three rounds of Championship action incredibly tense.
Zebre arrive in Scotland coming off two consecutive wins (against Connacht and Dragons) to face a Glasgow Warriors team whose ambitions of reaching the Pro12 Final Series remain mathematically possible. Warriors' defeat to Munster in Round 19 makes maximum points a must. However, the visitors will be buoyed by their recent run of form which has coincided with the return of their Italian international players.
Judgement Day V will grab all the headlines in Wales for the now traditional East versus West battles between Cardiff Blues against Ospreys and Newport-Gwent Dragons against Scarlets.
The Millenium Stadium is looking to host another record crowd but beyond the big event the teams from the west – Ospreys and Scarlets – need victories in order to remain on pace to reach the Pro12 Final Series.
In Galway, Connacht may not retain the title they won in such thrilling fashion last season but their game against Leinster will provide them with the opportunity to have an impact on who succeeds them as champions. Depending on results Leinster could lock up either a guaranteed semifinal place or even a home semifinal. Finally, Edinburgh travel to face Benetton in Italy where the hosts shocked Ospreys only a couple of weeks ago.
Ulster will travel to Limerick looking to upset their interprovincial rival and reassert their position as a contender to reach the Pro12 Final Series. Munster are in second place after their hard-fought win over Glasgow Warriors in Cork in Round 19 and they know that a victory against the men from Kingspan Stadium would put them within touching distance of a home semifinal.
Ulster slipped up at home to Cardiff Blues in Round 19, drawing 24-24, but they are vying with Scarlets and Ospreys to finish in the top four and compete in the knock-out stages of the Championship for the fifth consecutive time. Ulster also face a trip to Ospreys before then hosting Leinster in Round 22 and although their fate is still within their own hands this promises to be a monumental battle between the Irish provinces.
We take a look at all the Round 20 action!
Friday, April 14:
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre
(Scotstoun Stadium - Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian Time; 18.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors' last five matches in the Pro12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Scotsmen's record at Scotstoun in the Championship this season is won five, lost four.
Warriors have not been defeated by an Italian side since Treviso visited Firhill in September 2011.
Zebre have won their last two matches in the Pro12 to move ahead of Benetton Treviso in the Italian qualification sport for Europe for the first time since early December. They have never won three successive matches in the tournament.
Zebre's four previous victories over a Scottish opponent have all been against Edinburgh.
Glasgow have won all nine previous matches between the two sides, the last six with maximum points.
Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 D’arcy Rae, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Alex Allan
Replacements: 16 Cammy Fenton, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Matt Smith, 22 George Horne, 23 Sean Lamont
Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Serafin Bordoli, 9 Carlo Engelbrecht, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Valerio Bernabò (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Guillermo Roan, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Bruno Postiglioni
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Kurt Baker, 23 Matteo Pratichetti
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland), Cammy Rudkin (Scotland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Saturday, April 15:
Benetton Treviso v Edinburgh
(Stadio Monigo - Kick-off: 20.05; 19.05 BST; 18.05 GMT)
Benetton have won just once in the last eight rounds of the Pro12: 13-5 over Ospreys in Treviso in Round 18.
Benetton have not won successive home games in the Championship since 2016. The Italians' most recent victory over a Scottish opponent was 20-16 at home to Edinburgh in March 2014.
Edinburgh have lost all seven Pro12 fixtures they have played in 2017. They have never lost eight in a row in the history of the championship.
Edinburgh's only away win this season in the Pro12 was on a visit to Zebre on December 31.
Edinburgh have won their last five matches against Benetton.
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto Porolli, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Jean-Francois Montauriol, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, Tito Tebaldi, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Viliami Fihaki, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford (captain) 1 Murray McCallum.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Junior Rasolea.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
(Millennium Stadium - Kick-off: 14.45; 13.45 GMT)
Cardiff Blues are without a victory since beating Edinburgh 18-17 at Myreside in Round 16 of the Pro12.
Blues' only pervious win on "Judgement Day" was when they beat Scarlets 17-13 in 2014.
Cardiff Blues have won just one of their last six encounters with fellow Welsh regions – at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Boxing Day.
Ospreys have slipped to three straight defeats in all competitions but have not lost four in a row in the same season since 2014/15.
Ospreys only defeat in their last thirteen encounters with fellow Welsh regions was at home to Scarlets in the Pro12 in March 2016.
Ospreys have played seven previous matches at the Millennium Stadium in all tournaments with their only defeat being in their most recent visit, two weeks ago against Stade Francais in the quarterfinals of the European Challenge Cup.
Ospreys have won their last eleven fixtures against Blues in the Pro12 since their 21-all draw at Liberty Stadium in April 2011, whilst the capital side's most recent win over Ospreys in the pro12 came at the Cardiff City Stadium on new year's eve 2010.
Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Rhun Williams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Gethin Jenkins (captain), 7 Kristian Dacey, 6 Taufa’ao Filise, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Josh Navidi, 2 Ellis Jenkins, 1 Nick Williams.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 James Down, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Aled Summerhill.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dafydd Howells, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Tyler Ardron, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Luke Price, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TBC: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Connacht v Leinster
(Sportsground - Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Connacht's 22-19 victory at Edinburgh last weekend in the Pro12 ended a two game losing run.
Connacht's only defeat at the Sportsground in any competition since September was to Munster on December 31.
Connacht's solitary victory over a fellow Irish province this season was against Ulster in Galway in Round Six of the Pro12.
Leinster have won their last seven matches in all competitions since drawing 24-all at Castres in January, whilst their most recent reversal was to Munster in Limerick on St Stephen's Day - their only defeat by a fellow Irish province this season.
Leinster won 24-13 when the two sides clashed at the RDS Arena in Round Seven to reverse the result in last season's pro12 final at Murrayfield.
Connacht have lost just once to Leinster in Galway in the last four encounters: 8-16 in January 2014.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Sean O’Brien, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Eoin Griffin.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Barry Daly.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Munster v Ulster
(Thomond Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Munster's only defeat in any tournament since mid-December was 21-30 at home to Scarlets in the Pro12 at the end of February.
The Munstermen have lost only that one game at Thomond Park in their last 14 matches since December 2015.
Munster have won their last three matches against fellow Irish provinces since tripping up to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in October.
Ulster are unbeaten in their last seven Pro12 matches since their 13-16 reversal in Llanelli in Round 13.
Ulster have won just one of their last five fixtures against fellow Irish provinces: 23-7 at home to Connacht in Round 11.
Munster are unbeaten in their last five encounters with Ulster since the Ulstermen's 19-17 victory at Thomond Park in May 2014.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls; 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kiloyne.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O’Callaghan, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway.
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Andrew Trimble (captain), 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Alan O'Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart McCloskey, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Emmanuele Tomò (Italy), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Newport Gwent Dragons v Scarlets
(Millennium Stadium - Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have lost their last six Pro12 fixtures since beating Treviso 26-8 at Rodney Parade on January 6.
Dragons have made four previous appearances at the Millennium Stadium, all on "Judgement Day", but have lost them all.
The Men from Gwent have not overcome a fellow Welsh region in the Pro12 since beating Blues in Cardiff on Boxing Day 2014.
Scarlets have lost just once in the Pro12 since Round 11: 9-45 to Leinster in Dublin on March 4.
Scarlets have made five previous visits to the Millennium Stadium with their only defeat being 13-17 to Blues on "Judgement Day" 2014.
Dragons beat Scarlets 36-21 in the Anglo-Welsh cup in November, but in the Pro12 their only victory over the Men from the West since 2008 was 23-16 at Rodney Parade in September 2013.
Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Adam Warren, 10 Angus O'Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Ollie Griffiths, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 17 Phil Price, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Ashley Sweet, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Dorian Jones, 22 Tom Prydie, 23 Jack Dixon.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny Mcnicholl, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Tom Price, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)