After just two rounds there are only three teams left with 100 percent winning records in the Pro12, namely, Munster, Scarlets and Ulster. One of those will go this weekend, as Ulster host Munster at Ravenhill on Friday. Whilst Munster have the better record in this fixture, Ulster have had the better of their opponents at home, so it really is anyone’s game.
Also on Friday, reigning champions, Ospreys, will be looking for their first victory of this campaign. Their adversaries, Glasgow Warriors, are also seeking to shed an unwelcome played two lost two record start to the season.
The final game on Friday takes place in Scotland’s capital city when Edinburgh Rugby take on Italian newcomers Zebre.
The hosts lost their first round encounter against Munster at Murrayfield, despite a hat-trick by Tim Visser, so will be looking for a victory for their fans to cheer.
The round wraps up with three games on Saturday. Connacht kick off the action when current table-toppers Scarlets are the visitors to the Sportsground in Galway, a venue where they last tasted victory in January 2009.
The action then switches to Italy with Benetton Treviso welcoming European champions, Leinster to Stadio Monigo.
Treviso won the first meeting of the two teams in this competition, but the results have gone the way of the Irish province since then.
Last, but by no means least, is the all-Welsh derby between Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues at Rodney Parade.
Having led the table after the first round, Dragons slipped up last week to Leinster, and both teams now have a won one lost one record, with both gaining a bonus point in the process.
We look at all the Round Three action!
Friday, September 14
OSPREYS v GLASGOW WARRIORS
(Liberty Stadium – 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
Ospreys have begun the defence of their Pro12 title with a pair of defeats, the only other reigning champion to have equalled this was the Ospreys themselves in 2007, when they lost the first three games of their defence.
The Welshmen have lost at home to a Scottish side just once since 2009: 26-20 to today’s visitors, Glasgow Warriors, on 2 March 2012.
Glasgow Warriors have also begun the season with back to back losses to Ulster and Scarlets, but were at least victorious on their most recent visit to Wales.
The Warriors have lost just one of their last nine matches against the Welsh regions.
Glasgow achieved the double over Ospreys for the first time last season including a first ever victory on Ospreys home turf.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 George Stowers, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Andrew Bishop.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 John Barclay, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Finlay Gillies, 17 George Hunter 18 Gordon Reid, 19 James Eddie, 20 Angus Macdonald, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Sean Lamont.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
ULSTER v MUNSTER
(Ravenhill – 19.05; 1805 GMT)
Ulster have made the perfect start to the Pro12 campaign with back to back wins over Glasgow Warriors and Ospreys.
The Ulstermen’s only reversal at Ravenhill since last September was 8-16 to Leinster on 20 April. Ulster have lost their last four encounters with fellow Irish provinces.
Munster have, for the third season running, also started with successive Pro12 victories, against Edinburgh and Treviso.
Ulster have won just one of their last four fixtures with the Munstermen in this tournament, but did knock their rivals out of the European Cup at the quarterfinals stage in April.
Munster’s solo victory at Ravenhill since 2007 was 16-6 on 29 October 2010.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (captain), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Luke O’Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ronan O’Gara, 23 Keith Earls.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
EDINBURGH v ZEBRE
(Murrayfield – 19.30; 18.30 GMT)
Edinburgh Rugby have won two of their last three games in the Pro12, however the Scotsmen lost their most recent game at Murrayfield to Munster.
Edinburgh have won their last three encounters with Italian opponents and have never been defeated at home by a visiting team from Italy.
Zebre, the Pro12′s newest team, are trying to find their feet in the competition and have so far slipped to a pair of defeats at the hands of Newport Gwent Dragons and Connacht.
The two teams have never met before.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Dimitri Basilaia, 21 Chris Leck, 22 John Houston, 23 Tom Brown.
Zebre: 15 Sinoti Sinoti, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Daniel Halangahu, 11 Ruggero Trevisan, 10 Alberto Chiesa, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Andries van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luciano Leibson, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Filippo Cazzola, 20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Paolo Buso, 23 Alberto Benettin.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Andrew McMenemy, Adrian Graves (both Scotland)
Saturday, September 15
CONNACHT v SCARLETS
(Sportsground – 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Connacht gained a first win of the new Pro12 season on Friday when they visited Zebre and triumphed 30-17.
Connacht’s only win in their last seven matches against Welsh regions was 27-19 against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on 30 March 2012.
Scarlets top the PRO12 table for the first time since round three in season 2008/09 following their successive wins over Leinster and Glasgow.
The Welshmen have won back to back away games but have not won three in a row on the road in the tournament since 2006/07.
The last six clashes between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Scarlets most recent victory at the Sportsground came on 9 January 2009.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (captain), 14 Tiernan O’Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Dennis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 David Gannon, 20 Johnny O’Connor, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
Scarlets: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Nick Reynolds 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Sione Timani, 5 Richard Kelly, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Peter Edwards, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland, 43rd competition game)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, John Carvill (both Ireland)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
BENETTON TREVISO v LEINSTER
(Stadio Monigo – 19.05; 17.05 GMT)
Benetton Treviso won the opening game of the season against Ospreys but tripped up to Munster in round two of the Pro12.
Treviso have lost their last five encounters with the Irish provinces.
Leinster got back to winning ways with a 45-25 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at the RDS on Saturday.
The Leinstermen have won their last seven fixtures against Italian opponents.
Treviso’s only previous victory over Leinster was 29-13 at Stadio Monigo on 18 September 2010.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Edoardo Gori, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain), 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Marco Filippucci, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Kristopher Burton.
Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Isa Nacewa.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Carlo Damasco, Stefano Traversi (both Italy)
TMO: Stefano Marrama (Italy)
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS v CARDIFF BLUES
(Rodney Parade 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons suffered a reversal of fortunes after their round one victory with a 25-45 defeat in Leinster.
Dragons have won just one of their last six Pro12 fixtures, however the Men from Gwent have won five of their last six matches against fellow Welsh regions at Rodney Parade.
Cardiff Blues tripped up at home to Edinburgh on Friday, but at least did win their most recent away game: 13-9 in Connacht in round one.
The Blues have won just one of their last eleven games against fellow Welsh sides: 28-9 at home to the Dragons on 23 December 2011.
The last four clashes between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Blues have not won at Rodney Parade since 23 April 2010.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries , 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 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Adam Hughes.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Thomas Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius (captain), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Nathan Trevett.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Jamie Roberts.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: James Jones, Wayne Davies (both Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales) ENDS
While there are still some teams to be announced we will veer away from our usual approach and just come out with the predictions now.
Opreys v Glasgow: Last year’s champions, Ospreys, have been a shadow of themselves this year having lost quite a few of their stalwarts in the off season.
However, Glasgow seem to be struggling a little more than them and will be without two international forwards in prop Rob Kalman and loose forward Rob Harley and up and the man who burst onto the international scene last year, young Stuart Hogg. All of these players are out with fairly long term injuries.
As Ospreys also have home ground advantage will go with a narrow win for Ospreys.
Ulster v Munster: This will be a bruising derby encounter and both teams should come out firing from the start. This is a tough one to call and it looks as if Munster have a stronger bench thanUlster.
However, Ulster are doing better so far than initially thought at the start of the season and are at home so Ulster get my backing for a narrow win.
Edinburgh v Zebre: Edinburgh were less than convincing at times against Cardiff Blues , but there were also times when they played well and their pack in particular did very well with a strong showing in the scrums.
Tim Visser, with four tries, is the leading try scorer of the season, but for me so far the best back for Edinburgh this season has been new acquistion at fullback Greg Tonks. Edinburgh will be hoping he continues in this vein of form and will also look for a continued improvement in level of play from flyhalf, and captain, Greg Laidlaw.
Zebre may put up some tough resistance at times but ultimately expect Edinburgh to run out as comfortable winners.
Connacht v Scarlets: Connacht may have won their game in Italy last week and enjoy home ground advantage but the Scarlets have been in wonderful form this season and deserve their position at the top of the table. Scarlets should win this one fairly comfortably.
Treviso v Leinster: Leinster may not have started the season on a good note but they bounced back in style last week against the Dragons.
Although Treviso are playing at home Leinster should still prove to be too strong for them.
Dragons v Cardiff Blues: As with the Ulster/Munster game this should prove to be another tough derby match that is hard to call.
Cardiff Blues have not been in the best of form thus far this season and although they only lost by two points away from home to Edinburgh last weekend they struggled at times, especially in the scrums.
Hopefully for Cardiff their coach will not commit the same folly as last week when he brought on young loose head prop Thomas Davies, who only turned 19 in March, as a substitute in the second half and faced WP Nel. Davies was given a torrid time in the scrums by Edinburgh and it was not surprising that he was eventually substituted himself late in the game.
Man of the match Alex Cuthbert was impressive though in that game and Cardiff will hope for another good performance from him.
The Dragons and Cardiff are both sitting in the top half of the table on 5 points with Dragons two places above Cardiff, on points difference. We will go with home ground advantage as the tipping point for this one, so one can expect the Dragons to win this one but the margin of victory is really hard to decide on.
Table after two rounds