Preview: Pro12, Round 21
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: All eyes return to the Pro12 Championship with four teams still fighting to join Leinster and Munster in the semifinals.
Ospreys and Scarlets form the Welsh challenge while Ulster have it within their control to make it three Irish representatives in the Final Series.
Glasgow Warriors, who won their first Championship title in 2015, can still make it into the semifinals but they will need to take maximum points from their final two games while relying on other results to go their way.
Glasgow Warriors arrive in Dublin to take on Leinster who will be recovering from their Champions Cup semifinal loss to Clermont Auvergne.
If the Warriors are to have any chance of reaching the Pro12 semifinals they will need to take maximum points against Leinster who have already secured a home berth in the knock-out stages.
Cardiff Blues will continue their build-up to the play-offs for the Champions Cup by hosting Zebre Rugby at Cardiff Arms Park. The Blues have been in terrific try-scoring form of late with 22 tries posted in their last six games and they are a prime contender to score the Championship's 652nd try of the season and set a new record.
The final game on Friday sees Edinburgh welcome Newport-Gwent Dragons to Myreside where the hosts will be eager to record their first win since making the move from Murrayfield in January.
On Saturday Munster make their way to Italy to take on Benetton who have won their last two games at the Stadio Monigo against Ospreys and Dragons. Connacht are also expecting a big crowd for the visit of Scarlets as the 2016 champions play their final home game of the season.
Ospreys v Ulster promises to be a dramatic affair with both sides aware that victory in the fixture will represent a huge step forward in their bid to reach the semifinals.
Ospreys will be looking to arrest a run of results which have stalled their Championship assault while Ulster will be encouraged with their losing bonus-point performance against Munster in Round 20.
Home advantage and the second-best defence in the Championship will give Ospreys confidence at Liberty Stadium, however, Ulster know that defeat would likely end their ambitions of reaching the knock-out stages for the fifth season in succession.
We look agead to all Round 21's action!
Friday, April 28:
Cardiff Blues v Zebre
(Cardiff Arms Park - Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 GMT; 20.05 Italian Time)
Cardiff Blues ended a three game winless run in the Pro12 with their 35-17 eclipsing of Ospreys on "Judgement Day".
The Blues have won just two of their last seven encounters in the Championship at Cardiff Arms Park.
The Welshmen have not lost to an Italian opponent since a visit to Treviso in February 2016.
Zebre have won two of their last three fixtures, but both of those matches were played at home in Parma.
On the road Zebre’s only victory this season came on a visit to Edinburgh in October.
The Blues have been defeated three times before by Zebre, twice in Parma in 2014 and 2015, and once in Cardiff in 2013.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kurt Baker, 23 Matteo Pratichetti.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Edinburgh v Newport Gwent Dragons
(Myreside - Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Edinburgh have lost their last eight matches in the Pro12, their poorest ever run in the Championship.
The Scotsmen have played eight previous Pro12 games at Myreside, winning just two – against Caerphilly in 2001 and Ospreys in 2015.
Newport Gwent Dragons have lost their last ten matches in all competitions since beating Enisei at Rodney Parade in the European Challenge Cup in January.
The Welshmen have not won away from home since beating Gloucester in last season’s European Challenge Cup quarterfinal at Kingsholm.
Dragons won 27-19 when the two sides met at Rodney Parade in Round Nine and have not achieved a Pro12 season's double over the Scotsmen since 2011/12.
Dragons most recent victory in Scotland was beating Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in November 2013. This will be their first visit to Myreside.
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Holand, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 3 Simon Berghan, 2 George Turner, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Murray McCallum, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O'Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Thomas Davies.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Owain Leonard, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones, 23 Tom Prydie.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Cammy Rudkin (Scotland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
(RDS Arena - Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Leinster have won their last nine Pro12 matches since their 17-29 reversal to Munster in Limerick on December 26.
The Leinstermen have not been defeated at the RDS Arena in the Championship since Dragons won there in February 2015.
Glasgow Warriors only defeat in the last four rounds of the Pro12 was 7-10 to Munster in Cork on April 8.
Glasgow have lost their last four away games in all competitions since beating Leicester Tigers 43-0 at Welford Road in the European Champions Cup in January.
The Warriors have won just one of their last seven fixtures against Irish provinces in all tournaments: 35-24 at home to Connacht in March.
Glasgow's only defeat in their last five matches against Leinster since the 2014 final was at the RDS Arena in October 2015.
Warriors solitary victory in fourteen previous visits to RDS Arena was 23-19 in the Pro12 in September 2011.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O'Loughlin, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony (captain), 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Noel Reid
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos (co-captain), 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray (co-captain), 4 Brian Alainu'uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Alex Allan.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Alex Dunbar.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Saturday, April 29:
Benetton v Munster
(Stadio Monigo - Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 British Time, 17.05 GMT)
Benetton have won two of their last three matches in the Pro12, both at home, to Ospreys and Edinburgh in Rounds 18 and 20.
The Italians have not won three successive home games in the Championship since 2013.
Benetton have lost all seven games they have played against Irish provinces this season.
Munster have lost only one of their last fourteen matches in the Pro12: 21-30 at home to Scarlets in Round 16, whilst they have not lost an away game in the tournament since they faced Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in October.
The Munstermen have won their last 15 games against Italian opponents in all competitions.
Munster have won their last six fixtures against Benetton in the Pro12 since the Italian's 29-19 triumph at Stadio Monigo in September 2013.
Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 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, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Andrea Pratichetti.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Darren O’Shea, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Brian Scott, 18 Rory Burke, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Alex Wootton.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Connacht v Scarlets
(Sportsground - Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Connacht only victory in the last four rounds of the Pro12 came on a visit to Edinburgh on 7 April.
The Irishmen have lost just twice in Galway since mid-September: against Munster on New Year’s Eve and Leinster in Round 20.
Connacht's only two home defeats to Welsh regions in the last three seasons have both been to Ospreys.
Scarlets only loss in the last nine rounds of the Pro12 was to Leinster in Dublin on 4 March, a defeat which also saw them end a four game winning run against Irish provinces.
Connacht have won only two of their last ten encounters against Scarlets – both in Galway, in November 2014 and January 2016.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne (captain), 4 James Cannon, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Finlay Bealham.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 John Muldoon, 21 John Cooney, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Danie Poolman.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 John Barclay, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Scott Williams, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Helen O'Reilly (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
Ospreys v Ulster
(Liberty Stadium - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Ospreys have slipped to three straight defeats in the Pro12 but have not lost four in row in the Championship in the same season since their inaugural campaign in 2003/04.
Ospreys two defeats at Liberty Stadium in the Pro12 this season have come in their last three home fixtures, against Munster and Leinster whilst their only victory in their last six encounters with Irish provinces was when Connacht visited Swansea in January.
Ulster's six game winning run in the Pro12 has come to an end with a draw at home to Cardiff Blues and a loss in Munster in the last two rounds.
The Ulstermen have lost just one of their last eight fixtures against Welsh regions: 13-16 in Llanelli in Round 13.
Ulster's only defeat in their last seven matches against Ospreys was 20-31 at Liberty Stadium in December 2014.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Habberfield, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Underhill, 5 Tyler Ardron, 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 Dan Baker, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Ulster: 15 Craig Gilroy, 14 Andrew Trimble (captain), 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)