Preview: Pro12, Round Three
Preview: Pro12, Round ThreeSHARE
Munster will be aiming to become the first side ever to begin a Pro12 season with three bonus point victories against Treviso at Stadio Monigo on Friday.
Thanks to a stirring second-half comeback against Zebre, where they scored four tries and 34 points, Munster are the early Pro12 pace-setters and play in Italy once again this weekend.
Rob Penney's men top the pile thanks to two bonus point wins from two and on Friday they will face a Treviso side who have suffered back-to-back defeat to Welsh opposition to start their campaign, having stayed in Lake Garda for the week, following last weekend's win over Zebre.
The only other team to win both of their matches so far are Glasgow Warriors, whose eight-game winning streak at their Scotstoun home will be put to the test when they host defending champions Leinster, also on Friday.
Both sides were involved in thrilling finishes last weekend – Leinster coming from behind to move into a winning position, only to see Dan Biggar's last-minute penalty earn the Ospreys a 29-29 draw at the RDS.
The Warriors meanwhile, left it late to clinch a 13-12 victory away at Ulster, James Eddie scoring a last-gasp try before Stuart Hogg converted to seal the win.
It was Ulster's second straight defeat of the season – a far cry from the 11-game winning streak with which they began last campaign – and they will look to put that right in the first all-Irish clash of the season against Connacht at the Sportsground on Friday.
Pat Lam's side made an impressive start to the season with victory over Zebre but were downed last time out in Cardiff and will be looking to get back to winning ways on home soil.
Zebre, meanwhile, travel to face the Blues on their new synthetic pitch still searching for their first win in the Pro12 on Friday night while down the road in Newport, Rodney Parade hosts the first all-Welsh clash of the campaign.
The Dragons, rejuvenated under Lyn Jones, were edged out 13-16 by Edinburgh in another tight finish last season but at Rodney Parade on a Friday night they are a different proposition – something the Scarlets will be only too aware of.
And completing the fixtures for Round Three, Ospreys host an ever-improving Edinburgh side at the Liberty Stadium and have called on the cavalry – their full British and Irish Lions contingent of prop Adam Jones, hooker Richard Hibbard, flank Justin Tipuric and locks Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans all set to feature.
We look at all the Round Three matches!
Friday, September 20:
Treviso v Munster
(Stadio Monigo – Kick-off: 18.30; 16.30 GMT)
Treviso were defeated at home to Ospreys in Round One and away at Scarlets in Round Two, but have not lost three games in a row since last November. The Italians have drawn their last two games against Irish Provinces: 29-all in Ulster in March and 23-all at home to Connacht in April.
Munster are bidding to become the first side ever to begin a Pro12 season with three maximum point victories. The Munstermen’s last two away games have both coincidentally been in Italy, beating Zebre in Parma on both occasions.
Treviso have won two of their six previous encounters with Munster in the Pro12 whilst Munster’s only victory in the competition at Stadio Monigo came in February 2012.
Treviso: 15 Luke McClean, 14 Christian Loamanu, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Alberto De Marchi, 2 Enrico Ceccato, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 John Maistri, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Robert Barbieri, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donnacha O'Callaghan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ivan Dineen.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), F Navarra (Italy)
TMO: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)
Cardiff Blues v Zebre
(Arms Park – Kick-off: 19.30; 18.30 GMT)
Cardiff Blues’ 21-10 victory at home to Connacht on Friday ended a three-game losing streak. The Welshmen are going for a third successive home victory for the first time since they returned to the Arms Park. Cardiff Blues have never lost at home to an Italian side in any competition since the region was formed in 2003.
Zebre’s last four games have all been against Irish opponents, whilst their most recent fixture with a Welsh region was when they visited the Arms Park in April and lost 13-28.
The Blues won both encounters with Zebre last season, with the Italians claiming a losing bonus point in Parma in November.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Andries Pretorius (captain), 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 James Down, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Cory Allen.
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 David Odiete, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster
(Scotstoun Stadium – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors have been victorious in Rounds One and Two of the Pro12, but have not won their opening three encounters of a season since 2002/03. The Warriors have won their last eight fixtures at Scotstoun in all competitions since Castres beat them there in the European Cup last December.
Leinster’s only defeat in their last 20 matches in all competitions was to Ulster at the RDS in March.
The Leinstermen have won all eight games they have played away from home in 2013, and have not lost to a Scottish opponent since Glasgow visited the RDS in September 2011. Glasgow are winless in their last seven encounters with Leinster in all competitions, although they did draw 10-all at Firhill in the Pro12 in February 2012.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Chris Cusiter (captain), 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 James Eddie, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Scott Wight. 23 Byron McGuigan.
Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Darragh Fanning, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Rob Kearney.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Neil Paterson (Scotland), Adrian Graves (Scotland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
Newport Gwent Dragons v Scarlets
(Rodney Parade – Kick-off: 19.15; 18.15 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons’ last five matches have all been won by the home side on the day. Dragons are going for a third successive victory at Rodney Parade in the competition for the first time since April 2011. The en from Gwent lost all six Pro12 encounters last season against fellow Welsh regions.
Scarlets’ 26-10 home win over Treviso last Saturday ended a three-game losing run. Scarlets have won five of their last six contests against fellow Welsh regions in all competitions.
Scarlets have won their last 10 fixtures against Dragons in the Pro12 since Dragons were victorious 15-13 at Rodney Parade on New Year’s Day 2008.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Ross Wardle, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Toby Faletau. 7 Lewis Evans, 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Andrew Coombs (captain), 3 Francisco Chaparro, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Dan Way, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Adam Hughes.
Scarlets: 15 Steve Shingler, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Nic Reynolds, 23 Gareth Owen.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Saturday, September 21:
Ospreys v Edinburgh
(Liberty Stadium – Kick-off: 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
Ospreys have made an unbeaten start to their Pro12 campaign, winning 24-19 in Treviso and drawing 29-all at Leinster. The Welshmen have won their last nine games in the Pro12 at the Liberty Stadium since Glasgow were the visitors on September 14, 2012, however, Ospreys have won just one of their last five games against Scottish opponents.
Edinburgh’ s last four fixtures have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only away victory in their last nine trips in all competitions was 9-7 against Zebre in Parma in March. Edinburgh have won only once in their last 15 visits to Wales since 2009: 21-19 at the Blues last September.
Ospreys have lost just one of their last four fixtures with Edinburgh, whilst the Scotsmen have not been victorious at Liberty Stadium since 25 April 2009.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tom Smith, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Tom Grabham, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Aisea Natoga.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Dougie Fife, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 David Denton, 7 Roddy Grant (captain), 6 Dimitri Basilaia, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 WP Nel, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Michael Tait, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Greg Morgan (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Connacht v Ulster
(Sportsground – Kick-off: 18.45; 17.45 GMT)
Connacht’s only win in their last five Pro12 fixtures was 25-16 at home to Zebre in Round One of the new season. Connacht have been defeated in their last five encounters with fellow Irish provinces.
Ulster have lost their last three Pro12 games but have not lost four in a row in the competition since October 2011. The Ulstermen have only once before begun a season with three straight defeats -in 2008/09.
Connacht’s solo victory over Ulster in their last 14 contests since 2005 was 26-21 in Galway in April 2012.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Jake Heenan, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Michael Swift (captain), 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Danie Poolman.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 David McIlwaine, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ian Porter, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 James McKinney, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)