Preview: Pro12, Round 21
Preview: Pro12, Round 21SHARE
It was all change yet again at the top of the Pro12 table following Round 20, with Ulster retaking the top position, whilst Glasgow Warriors slipped to third.
And with just two rounds left, and a maximum of 10 points on offer, five teams are still vying for the four play-off places.
The game of this round must be fourth placed Ospreys visit to Scotstoun to play third on the table Glasgow Warriors on Friday.
Having lost to another play-off contender, Scarlets, last time out, Warriors have slipped to their lowest point in the table since Christmas, whilst if they have to have any hope of retaining their title, Ospreys must ensure they make the play-offs so both teams know every point counts.
Leaders Ulster are also in action on Friday facing a trip to ninth placed Connacht and must be wary of the fact Connacht have not lost at the Sportsground in 2013 and won this equivalent fixture last season.
Fifth placed Scarlets will have a chance to catch up on the top four when they face Cardiff Blues on Saturday, knowing they have won their last seven matches against the Blues in all tournaments.
The final match of the round sees second placed Leinster breaking new ground when they take on Zebre at Stadio Citta del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
It is the first time a Pro12 game has been played there, the game has been moved to the larger venue to help raise funds for victims of the earthquake that hit the region last year.
We look at all the Round 21 matches!
Friday, April 19
Newport Gwent Dragons v Munster
(Rodney Parade – Kick-off: 19.00; 18.00 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have occupied 11th place in the Pro12 table since Round Six, slipping to defeat in their last four matches in the competition, and have not been victorious at Rodney Parade since beating Treviso there on 8th February.
The Dragons' only win in their last eleven contests against Irish provinces was 14-3 at home to Connacht on 23rd November 2012.
Munster have won just one of their last six Pro12 fixtures: 22-0 at home to Connacht in Cork on 23rd March.
The Munstermen's only win over a Welsh region since September was 24-18 over Cardiff Blues at The Arms Park in November.
Munster have won their last four encounters against The Dragons since the Welshmen's 20-6 victory at Rodney Parade on 26th November 2010.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Ross Wardle, 12 Lewis Robling, 11 Tonderai Chavhanga, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Andrew Coombs (captain), 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Aaron Coundley.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Tim Ryan, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Ieuan Jones, 22 Wayne Evans, 23 Andy Tuilagi.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Ronan O'Mahony, 13 Ivan Dineen, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Cillian Sheridan, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Dave Foley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian Du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Henry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Cian Bohane, 23 Danny Barnes.
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Neil Perkins (both Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v Ospreys
(Scotstoun Stadium – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors slipped to their lowest position in the Pro12 table since Christmas with their 6-29 defeat at the Scarlets on Friday.
The Warriors have won their last half a dozen encounters played at Scotstoun in all competitions since Castres won there 9-6 in the European Cup on 7th December.
Glasgow have suffered just four defeats in their last sixteen matches against Welsh regions, all four losses have been at the hands of the Scarlets.
Ospreys' only defeat in the Pro12 since round 9 was 10-22 to Connacht in Galway on 15th February.
The Welshmen have won only one of their last six visits to Scotland, 15-14 over Edinburgh at Murrayfield in February 2012.
Glasgow Warriors have won the last three encounters with Ospreys including the 28-10 victory at Liberty Stadium in round three.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Barclay, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Ben John, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Jonathan Thomas, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ross Jones.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: TBC
Benetton Treviso v Edinburgh
(Stadio Monigo – Kick-off: 20.30; 18.30 GMT)
Benetton Treviso's three game unbeaten run in the Pro12 ended in Swansea last Saturday.
The Italians have won their last four games in all competitions at Stadio Monigo since their 13-14 defeat there to Leicester in the
European Cup on 15 December.
Treviso have won just one of their last six games against Scottish opponents.
Edinburgh's two game winning run in the Pro12 came to a halt at home to Connacht on Friday.
The Scotsmen's only away win in the Pro12 since September was also in Italy against Zebre on 29th March. Edinburgh have lost just one of their last six encounters with Italian opposition: 22-27 to Treviso at Murrayfield in October 2012.
Edinburgh have the slight edge in previous contests with Treviso, gaining three wins to two.
Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gideon La Grange, 11 Christian Loamanu, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Paul Derbyshire, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Giovanni Maistri, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Kristopher Burton, 23 Luke McLean.
Edinburgh: 15 Tom Brown, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Netani Talei, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Steve Lawrie, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 John Yapp, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Robert McAlpine, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Lee Jones.
Referee: Mark Patton (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Traversi, Simone Boaretto (both Italy)
TMO: Stefano Marrama (Italy)
Connacht v Ulster
(Sportsground – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Connacht's solitary reversal in their last five Pro12 fixtures was 0-22 to Munster in Cork on 23rd March.
Connacht have won all four matches played at the Sportsground in all competitions in 2013. Connacht's only win over a fellow Irish province this season came in Round Five when they beat Leinster 34-6 in Galway.
Ulster returned to the top of the Pro12 table with their 31-5 victory at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday.
The Ulstermen's only away victory in their last four trips in all competitions was 22-18 over Leinster at RDS on 30 March.
Ulster have lost just once against a fellow Irish province this season: 10-24 in Munster on 29th December.
Connacht's only win in their last 13 Pro12 contests with Ulster was 26-21 in this equivalent fixture at the Sportsground last season.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Gavin Duffy (captain), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 John Muldoon, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 JP Cooney, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 Mata Fifita, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Johann Muller, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, B O'Connell (both Ireland)
TMO: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Saturday, April 20
Scarlets v Cardiff Blues
(Parc y Scarlets – Kick-off: 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
Scarlets solitary defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions was 5-32 to Leinster at the RDS on 23rd February.
Scarlets have won their last five encounters at Parc y Scarlets since losing there to Clermont Auvergne in the European Cup
on 19th January.
Just one opposing Welsh region has won at Parc y Scarlets since October 2010: Ospreys in September 2012.
Cardiff Blues ended a four game losing streak with their 28-13 home victory over Zebre on Saturday.
The Blues have won just three of their last 17 fixtures with fellow Welsh regions in all competitions, with all three coming against the Dragons.
Scarlets have won their last seven matches against the Blues in all tournaments, since the Blues' 39-16 victory at Parc y Scarlets in the Pro12 on 17th April 2010.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Jacobie Adriannse, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Maule.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Gavin Evans (captain), 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Michael Paterson, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Tim Hayes (both Wales)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Sunday, April 21
Zebre v Leinster
(Stadio Citta del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia – Kick-off: 16.00; 14.00 GMT)
This game has been moved to the Stadio Citta del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia to raise funds for victims of earthquake that hit the region last year.
The stadium will become the 37th venue to host a Pro12 match.
Just two other major rugby games have been played at the arena, with Pacific Islanders beating Italy there in November 2008 and Ospreys defeating Viadana in the European Cup a year later.
Leinster's only loss in their last twelve fixtures in all competitions was 18-22 to Ulster at the RDS in the Pro12 on 30th March, and are unbeaten on the road in 2013.
The Leinstermen have won their last 10 games against Italian opponents in the Pro12 since their 13-29 reversal in Treviso in September 2010.
Leinster won 37-7 when the two sides met at the RDS in Round 10.
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Giovanbattista Venditti, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Michael Van Vuren, 3 Luciano Leibson, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea De March, 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 David Odiete.
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (Captain), 12 Andrew Goodman, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 John Cooney, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Andrew Conway.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Penne, Elia Rizzo (both Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)