It’s the last round of RaboDirect PRO12 games before the Heineken Cup gets underway and Ulster are sitting pretty at the top of the table, one point ahead of Scarlets.
On Friday night Connacht travel to Ravenhill, Scarlets host Newport-Gwent Dragons while both Italian teams are in action as Zebre host champions Ospreys and Bennetton Treviso travel to Edinburgh.
On Saturday Cardiff Blues host high-flying Glasgow Warriors, however, the match of the round is surely Munster’s annual trip to the Aviva Stadium where they take on European Champions Leinster. Both teams suffered heavy defeats last weekend but its Munster who battle against history as Leinster have won seven out of their last nine encounters in all competitions between the sides.
Ulster v Connacht
Connacht head to Ravenhill, where they have never won in this competition, with a potential new Head Coach named in place of Eric Elwood, who steps down at the end of the season. Last week the Westerners hammered Leinster in their biggest ever victory 34-6, scoring five tries in the process. It was Connacht’s first home win in the RaboDirect PRO 12 since April. Ulster remains unbeaten so far this season and has a game in hand over their nearest rivals. Connacht have not won at Ravenhill since 1960 and, this being Ulster’s first home game since the tragic death of Nevin Spence, emotions are sure to be palpable.
Edinburgh Rugby v Bennettoon Treviso
Edinburgh rugby enters this game on the back of two successive defeats although both encounters were played away from home. Michael Bradley’s team have won four of their last five games at Murrayfield and have never lost to an Italian side at the iconic venue. Treviso have two victories so far this season but have failed to win away from home since April, their only win on Scottish soil came against Glasgow in 2011.
Scarlets v Newport-Gwent Dragons
Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm
Scarlets made a great start to the league winning their first three games but have since slipped up against Ospreys and Treviso. The Dragons have lost their last three away games but got back to winning ways at home to Edinburgh last week but have only beaten another Welsh region on their home turf since 2007. Scarlets have won the last eight fixtures with the Men from Gwent in the tournament since Dragons won 15-13 at Rodney Parade on New Year ’s Day 2008.
Zebre v Ospreys
Stadio XXV Aprile, 7.05pm local time.
Bottom of the table Zebre gained their first point last weekend in their narrow 19-22 defeat to Glasgow Warriors. Champions Ospreys have defeated Scarlets and Munster in their last two games following early season losses in the opening rounds of the league. An early season trip to Italy for the champions ended in defeat to Treviso, however, coming away from Parma with a bonus point win will be of paramount importance to Ospreys.
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors
Arms Park, 6.30pm
Last weekend Ulster put Cardiff to the sword in the Welsh sides heaviest ever defeat since the formation of the club in 2003. The Blues have also lost to another Scottish side, in the shape of Edinburgh, 19-21. Glasgow Warriors come into this game in fine form, winning their last three on the bounce and have won four out of the last five encounters with Welsh opposition. Glasgow did the double over the Blues last season and are going for an unprecedented third straight win over Cardiff.
Leinster v Munster
Aviva Stadium, 6.30pm
The tie of the round sees European champions’ welcome long-standing rivals Munster to the Aviva Stadium as both teams aim to bounce back from heavy defeats last weekend. Leinster has a 100% winning record at the Aviva and Joe Schmidt’s men have not lost consecutive encounters against Irish opposition since 2008/09. Munster’s only away win this season was at Edinburgh and they have lost their last three visits to the Aviva Stadium.