Preview: PRO12, Round Five
Preview: PRO12, Round FiveSHARE
Despite their defeat by Ospreys last time out, and in the process the loss of the only remaining unbeaten record in this season’s PRO12, Scarlets still sit atop of the table.
They travel to Italy to face Benetton Treviso in one of two games on Saturday. The other fixture sees Ospreys host Munster, the team they defeated in the play-Offs on the way to becoming champions last season, at the Liberty Stadium.
The round opens with four games on Friday night, including the all-Ireland clash at the Sportsground in Galway when Connacht host European Champions, Leinster.
Even though the visitors have an impressive record against fellow Irish Provinces, Connacht can take heart from the fact that they were the victors in this equivalent fixture in 2010.
There are also two games in Wales on Friday: Cardiff Blues taking on Ulster and Newport Gwent Dragons facing Edinburgh Rugby.
Blues have attracted large crowds since their return to the Arms Park, their fans must be hoping the Cardiff side maintains the form that has not seen an Ulster victory at the ground since 2005.
In nearby Newport the visitors, Edinburgh, have to go back nearly as far to trace their last victory over Dragons at Rodney Parade, to May 2006, so the odds are in favour of Welsh successes on Friday night.
The remaining fixture in the round sees new franchise Zebre make their second trip to Scotland, this time to face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun. The visitors will be looking for a better return this time having gone down 41-10 at Edinburgh in Round Three.
Friday, September 28
Cardiff Blues v Ulster
(Cardiff Arms Park, 19.05 GMT)
Cardiff Blues only defeat in the opening four rounds of this season’s PRO12 was 19-21 at home to Edinburgh in Round Two. The Blues have won just two of their last five home games, but have been victorious in their last two home fixtures with Irish provinces.
Ulster return to action following the tragic circumstances of last week’s postponement of the clash with Zebre in Italy.
The Ulstermen have won all three PRO12 encounters so far this season, whilst their only defeat in their last five clashes with Welsh regions came in this equivalent fixture last season.
Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last campaign, whilst Ulster’s only win at the Arms Park since 2003 came on 9 September 2005.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Dafydd Hewitt, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius (captain), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Robin Copeland, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Nathan Trevett.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Campese Ma'afu, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Williams.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry (captain), 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Neil McComb, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Paddy Wallace, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens, Ian Davies
TMO: Neil Ballard
Connacht v Leinster
(Sportsground, 20.00 GMT)
Connacht’s only victory in their last five PRO12 matches was 30-17 away to Zebre in Parma on 7 September.
Connacht ended an unwanted run of ten straight defeats against fellow Irish provinces with their victory over Ulster at the Sportsground in April.
Leinster have recorded three successive wins against the Dragons, Treviso and Edinburgh. The Leinstermen achieved a clean sweep of six straight wins against their Irish provincial rivals last season in the PRO12.
Connacht have not beaten Leinster since a 27-13 victory at the Galway Sportsground on 21 April 2010.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Brett Wilkinson, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Mata Fifita.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Leo Auva'a, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Ben Marshall, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Thomas Sexton, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Fionn Carr.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black
TMO: Seamus Flannery
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre
(Scotstoun Stadium, 19.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors have won their last two PRO12 games, against Ospreys and Connacht, whilst the Scotsmen’s only home defeat in the tournament in their last eleven matches was 13-18 to Scarlets on 7 September.
The Warriors have won their last three matches against Italian opponents.
Italian new boys Zebre are still searching out their first league point following three straight defeats to Dragons, Connachtand Edinburgh.
The two sides have never met before.
Glasgow: 15 Fraser Thomson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro (captain), 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Finlay Gillies, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 James Eddie, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Stuart Hogg.
Zebre: 15 Daniel Halangahu, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (captain), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Michael Van Vuren, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Mancini, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Andrea De Marchi, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Paolo Buso, 23 Samuele Pace.
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Assistant Referees: Cammy Rudkin, Bob Nevins
TMO: Iain Ramage
Newport Gwent Dragons v Edinburgh
(Rodney Parade,19.00 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have won just one of their last eight matches in the PRO12: 37-6 at home to new
franchise Zebre on 31 August.
Dragons are unbeaten in their last three games against Scottish opponents.
Edinburgh tripped up at Leinster on Saturday evening to end a two game winning run. The Scotsmen’s solitary away
victory in the competition since last November was 21-19 at Cardiff Blues on 7 September.
The Dragons achieved the double over Edinburgh last season, whilst Edinburgh’s only victory over the Men from Gwent since May 2009 came in April 2011. The Scotsmen’s most recent victory at Rodney Parade was way back in May 2006.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Will Harries.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Tom Brown, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox (captain), 4 Robert McAlpine, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Andy Titterrell, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 John Yapp, 18 Lewis Niven, 19 Dimitri Basilaia, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Chris Leck, 22 John Houston, 23 Dougie Fife.
Referee: John Lacey
Assistant Referees: James Jones, Simon Rees
Saturday, September 29
Treviso v Scarlets
(Stadio Monigo, 19.05 GMT)
Treviso have won just one of their last six PRO12 encounters: 12-6 over Ospreys at Stadio Monigo on
the opening day of the new season.
Treviso have won two of their last three games against the Welsh regions.
Scarlets’ four game winning run ended at home to Ospreys on Friday, but they still sit atop the PRO12 table.
Scarlets have won their last three away games but have not won four in a row on the road in the tournament since May 2004.
Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season, whilst the men from West Wales’ only
previous win in Treviso came during the pool games in the 2010/11 European Cup.
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Alberto Sgarbi, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Paul Derbyshire, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Scarlets: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 George Earle, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Peter Edwards, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Kristian Phillips.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy
Assistant Referees: Carlo Damasco, Simone Boaretto
TMO: Alan Falzone
Ospreys v Munster
(Liberty Stadium, 18.30 GMT)
Ospreys got off the mark with a first victory of the PRO12 season at Scarlets on Friday.
The defending champions have lost their two games at Liberty Stadium so far this campaign but have never lost three successive home matches in the history of the tournament.
Munster’s only defeat this season was a narrow 19-20 at Ulster on 7 September. The Munstermen have won just one of their last four away games: 23-18 at Edinburgh on 1 September.
Ospreys achieved a treble over Munster in the PRO12 last season having also met them in the play-offs, whilst
the Irishmen’s only win at Liberty Stadium since 2009 was 22-20 on 23 April 2011.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Jonathan Thomas, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ross Jones.
Referee: Dudley Phillips
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas, Greg Morgan
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse