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Fri 18 Apr 2014 | 06:08

Preview: Pro12, Round 20

Preview: Pro12, Round 20
Fri 18 Apr 2014 | 06:08

Preview: Pro12, Round 20

With the announcement last week from European Professional Club Rugby confirming the structure of European competition next season, round 20 takes on even more significance.
Pick of the round must be the Good Friday fixture between Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.
Glasgow have already secured the automatic Scottish European Rugby Champions Cup qualification spot, but with a game in hand over their nearest rivals, can still claim a Pro12 home Play-Off spot.
Winning this fixture is vital for either team’s chances of hosting a home knock-out game.
Also on Good Friday Leinster welcome Benetton Treviso in Dublin.
Treviso have pulled out an eight point lead over Zebre in the table, and victory this weekend, dependent upon Zebre’s results could see them claim the Italian spot in Europe next season.
Leinster on the other hand are looking to secure not only top seeding in the Pro12 Play-Offs, but also the guaranteed spot for Irish participation in the senior European competition for 2014/15.
The other two Irish provinces, Connacht and Munster, meet at the Sportsground on Saturday with the visitors the third Irish team in the battle for both the Pro12 Play-Offs and guaranteed European qualification.
Over in Italy the same day Zebre know this is a must win game if they are to stand any chance of overtaking Treviso for the Italian European Rugby Champions Cup spot.
Edinburgh, only 10 points behind Scarlets and with a game in hand over their rivals, can still claim one of the three European places awarded to the  Pro12 teams on merit.
Easter Sunday sees the double header at the Millennium Stadium.
Ospreys are the only Welsh Region still in with a chance of reaching the Pro12 Play-Offs, but are four points off the Play-Off Zone, with their nearest rivals, Glasgow Warriors, having a game in hand, it is going to be a hard task.
Also up for grabs is the automatic Welsh place in Europe and possibly a second place in next season’s competition based on meritocracy.
Ospreys and Scarlets currently hold these positions, but Cardiff Blues are not out of the equation yet, and with the vagaries of the fixture list giving them two games against Scarlets and another against Connacht before the end of the season, there is still every chance that they could claim a top tier place in Europe next season.
We look at all the Round 20 games!
Friday, April 18
Glasgow Warriors v Ulster
(Scotstoun Stadium – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35)
Glasgow Warriors have won their last four Pro12 matches and have only failed to score a try in just one game in any competition this season – at home to Munster in October.
The Warriors record against Irish provinces this season is won five, lost two.
Ulster Rugby have lost just one of their last eight Pro12 encounters: 23-28 at Cardiff Blues in round 18, whilst the eight tries
they tallied in their defeat of Connacht on Friday was the most they have scored in a Pro12 game since May 2006.
Glasgow have won their last two encounters with Ulster and are attempting to record a fist season’s double over the Ulstermen since 2009/10.
Warriors:: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 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 Ryan Grant, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Richie Vernon.
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Chris Henry, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: John Lacey 
Assistant referees: David Changleng, Graeme Marshall 
TMO: Jim Yuille 
Leinster v Benetton Treviso
(Royal Dublin Society – Kickoff: 19.00; 17.00 GMT; 20.00 EU time)
Leinster have now lost their last two matches, at Toulon and at Ospreys, and have not lost three in a row since December
The Leinstermen are unbeaten in their last eleven Pro12 home matches including eight successive wins.
The Irishmen have never lost at home to an Italian side.
Benetton Treviso have won two of their last three matches whilst their bonus point win at home to Dragons on Saturday was their first five league point victory since round 22 last season.
The Italians have not been victorious in Ireland sincebeating Connacht in Galway in December 2011.
The two sides have met on nine previous occasions in all tournaments with Treviso’s only previous victory being 29-13 at Stadio Monigo in the Pro12 in September 2010.
Leinster:15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Daragh Fanning, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Brendan Macken.
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 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Matteo Muccignat.
Replacements: 16 Giovanni Maistri, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Fabio Semenzato, 22 James Ambrosini, 23 Brendan Williams.
Referee: Neil Paterson
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hagon-O’Connell, Will O’Connor 
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)
Saturday, April 19
Connacht v Munster
(Sportsground – Kick-off: 18.15; 17.00 GMT)
Connacht have slipped to back-to-back defeats in the Pro12, both on the road, to Scarlets and to Ulster.
Connacht’s only defeat at the Sportsground in any tournament since mid-December was 8-16 to Leinster in the Pro12 on January 4.
Connacht have lost their last ten matches against Irish provinces but have not suffered a clean sweep of defeats to fellow Irishmen in the same season since 2007/08.
Munster’s only win in their last four Pro12 matches was at home to Treviso in round 17. 
The Munstermen have been defeated in their last two encounters with opponents from Ireland and have lost three in a row against the other provinces since January 2009.
Connacht’s solo victory over Munster since 1986 was 12-6 in Galway in December 2008.

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon (captain), 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Ronan Loughney.
Replacements: 16 Jack Dinneen, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Dave McSharry.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 James Downey, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Damien Varley (captain), 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Alan Cotter, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Gerry Hurley, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Ronan O'Mahony.

Referee: Marius Mitrea 
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Mark Patton 
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (IRFU)
Zebre v Edinburgh 
(Stadio XXV Aprile – Kick-off: 15.30; 13.30 GMT; 14.30 UK time)
Zebre have attained league points in their last two Pro12 matches; drawing 25-all with Dragons and losing 20-27 at Scarlets, and have only once before gained points from three successive matches, between rounds 10 and 12 earlier this season.
Zebre’s record against Scottish opponents is played six, lost six, although they have gained a losing bonus point in the last three such encounters.
Edinburgh’s only victory in their last four Pro12 fixtures was 23-19 at Newport Gwent Dragons on April 3; they have not recorded back-to-back away wins in the tournament since September 2009.
The Scotsmen have lost on their last two visits to Italy but have a 100% winning record against Zebre.

Zebre: 15 David Odiete, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (captain), 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Davide Giazzoni, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Dave Ryan, 19 Michael van Vuuren, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kameli Ratuvou, 23 Dion Berryman.

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Tom Brown, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Dave Denton, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (captain), 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Alex Toolis, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Sam Beard.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon 
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Andrea Spadoni 
TMO: Carlo Damasco 
Sunday, April 20
Cardiff Blues v Scarlets
(Millennium Stadium – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 GMT)
Cardiff Blues have triumphed in their last two Pro12 matches but have not won three in a row in the competition since November 2011.
The Blues only victory in their last six matches against fellow Welsh Regions was 21-13 at home to the Dragons on New Year’s Day.
Cardiff Blues have not been victorious at Millennium Stadium since they beat Toulouse there in the European Cup quarterfinal in April 2009.
Scarlets have won their last two games, against Connacht and Zebre, but have slipped to three straight defeats against Welsh opponents in the Pro12. 
The Llanelli based side have been victorious on both of their previous visits to Millennium Stadium, beating Bath there in the Anglo-Welsh semifinal in 2006 and overcoming the Dragons in last season’s double header.
The Scarlets have won their last eight encounters with Cardiff Bleus in all tournaments since the Blues victory at Parc y
Scarlets in the ProI2 in April 2010.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'o Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Gavin Evans.

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Frazier Climo.

Referee: Ian Davies 
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Simon Rees 
TMO: Gareth Simmonds 
Newport Gwent Dragons v Ospreys
(Millennium Stadium – Kick-off: 16.45; 15.45 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons are without a win in their last five matches since their defeat of Glasgow in the Pro12 at Rodney Parade on 23rd February. 
Dragons have played only once at Millenniums Stadium before, losing 20-28 to Scarlets in last season’s double header.
Ospreys have won two of their last three matches and have been victorious in their last thirteen Pro12 encounters against fellow Welsh Regions. 
Ospreys have won on all three occasion they have visited Millennium Stadium, twice in Anglo-welsh Cup semi-finals and 23-16 over Cardiff Blues in this event last year.
Ospreys have won their last four PRO12 encounters with Dragons since the Men from Gwent’s 22-20 victory at Rodney Parade in January 2012.

Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Will Harries, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Netani Talei, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Andrew Coombs (captain), 3 Duncan Bell, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Bruce Douglas, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Nic Cudd, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Tyler Morgan.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 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 Tyler Ardron, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Aisea Natoga.

Referee: Nigel Owens 
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Jon Mason 
TMO: Derek Bevan


PV: 5
Preview: Pro12, Round 20 | Rugby365