With a pause in the international matches, the Pro12 takes centre stage again this weekend with games in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
First up on Friday night table toppers Ulster welcome Zebre to Ravenhill. The leaders will be keen to get back to their winning ways having suffered only their second defeat in this season’s campaign at the hands of Ospreys last week.
However, they will know Zebre can be tough opposition having only narrowly won the reverse of this fixture in Italy in November.
Ulster’s closest challengers, Glasgow Warriors, are also in action on Friday night, travelling to Rodney Parade to face Newport Gwent Dragons, a ground they have not won at since 2008.
It’s the battle of two capital city teams when Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues, also on Friday night. Edinburgh took the spoils in the reverse of this fixture in September, but they have not managed a season double over their visitors since 2009/10.
The final game on Friday night is in the West of Ireland when Connacht take on current champions, Ospreys. Buoyed by their success over leaders Ulster in the last round, the Welshmen will be looking to consolidate their play-off spot with victory at a ground where they have not lost since 2008.
The remaining two games are on Saturday with Leinster hosting Benetton Treviso and Munster travelling to Llanelli to face Scarlets.
Both Munster and Scarlets are just outside the play-off zone, and defeat for either may compromise their plans of a top four finish.
Likewise, with only eight rounds left, Leinster will be looking for every point to try and secure a home play-off spot, and their visitors have not won in Ireland for 15 months.
We look at all Round 15’s action!
Friday, February 15
Ulster v Zebre
(Ravenhill – 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
Ospreys handed Ulster only a second Pro12 of the season on Friday evening at Ravenhill. The Ulstermen’s only previous defeat to an Italian opponent in a competitive match was 12-23 at home to Treviso on October 7, 2011.
Zebre still await their first victory in the Pro12 although they have led six of their 14 games at some stage this season.
Ulster won 27-25 in Parma when the two sides clashed in Round Four – their second closest defeat so far.
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Chris Cochrane, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Calum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Neil Walsh.
Zebre: 15 Paolo Buso, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Alberto Benettin, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Michael van Vuren, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Matias Aguero, 19 Dries van Schalkwyk, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Alberto Chiesa, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 David Odiete.
Newport Gwent Dragons v Glasgow Warriors
(Rodney Parade – 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last three matches in all competitions. The last Scottish side to win at Rodney Parade in the Pro12 was Glasgow Warriors themselves, 12-6, on September 5, 2008.
Glasgow Warriors have won their last four contests in the Pro12 since losing 3-31 at Munster on December 1.
The Warriors’ only defeat in their last seven visits to Wales in all competitions was 14-16 at Scarlets in the Pro12 on January 7, 2012.
Newport Gwent Dragons have not beaten the Warriors since September 12, 2010, 23-11 at Rodney Parade.
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Owen Evans, 7 Hugh Gustafson, 6 Nathan Buck, 5 Ian Nimmo, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Lewis Evans (captain), 2 Nic Cudd, 1 Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Williams, 19 Josh Tyler, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Adam Hughes, 23 Hallam Amos.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 DTH Van Der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Prygos, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 John Barclay, 6 James Eddie, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Gerwyn Price, 17 Ofa Fainga’anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Scott Wight, 23 Fraser Thomson
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales)
TMO: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues
(Murrayfield – 19.30; 19.30 GMT)
Edinburgh have lost their last eight fixtures in all competitions since beating Connacht 24-23 in Galway in the Pro12 on December 1. The Scotsmen have won just two of their last six matches with Welsh regions at Murrayfield in the Pro12.
Cardiff Blues have won just one of their last five away games in all competitions: 17-6 against Munster in Cork in the Pro12 on January 5. The Blues have lost on their last two visits to Scotland in all tournaments.
Edinburgh beat the Blues 21-19 at the Arms Park in Round Two and have not completed a league double over the Welshmen since season 2009/10.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Stuart McInally, 6 David Denton, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Steven Lawrie (captain), 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Tom Brown
Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain) 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 James Down, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Taufa’ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Andries Pretorius, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Chris Czekaj
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Changleng (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Connacht v Ospreys
(Sportsground – 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
Connacht’s last five games have all been won by the home side on the day. The Irishmen have won two of their last four matches in all competitions. Connacht’s last three victories over a Welsh region have all been against Dragons.
Ospreys have won their last five Pro12 contests since losing 13-23 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on November 23. Ospreys’ only two defeats by an Irish province since May 2011 have both been at the hands of Munster.
Ospreys have won their last nine encounters with Connacht since the Irishmen were victorious, 24-20, at the Sportsground on May 9, 2008.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O’Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 Johnny O’Connor, 21 Paul O’Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Gavin Duffy.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 James King, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Lloyd Peers, 20 Jonathan Thomas, 21 Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, 22 Rhys Webb, 23 Ross Jones.
Referee: Guiseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Michael Black, Will O’Connor (both Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Saturday, February 16:
Leinster v Treviso
(Royal Dublin Society – 17.00; 17 GMT)
Leinster have won their last five matches in all competitions since being defeated 19-27 at Ulster in the Pro12 on December 21.
The Leinstermen have suffered just one reversal at the RDS in the regular season of the Pro12 since September 2011: 22-23 to Ospreys on March 23.
Treviso play their third successive away game in the Pro12, losing the other two: 7-41 in Glasgow and 14-23 at the Dragons. Treviso have not won in Ireland since a visit to Connacht on December 2, 2011.
Treviso’s only previous victory against Leinster was 29-13 at Stadio Monigo on September 18, 2010.
Leinster: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Eoin O’Malley, 12 Andrew Goodman, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ian Madigan,
9 Eoin Reddan, 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Sean Cronin, 3 Jamie Hagan, 4 Ben Marshall, 5 Devin Toner, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain) 7 Dominic Ryan, 8 Jordi Murphy
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Isaac Boss,
22 Noel Reid, 23 Fionn Carr
Treviso: 15 Giulio Toniolatti, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Andrea Pratichetti, 12 Gideon La Grange, 11 Tommaso Iannone,
10 James Ambrosini, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Valerio Bernabò, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain),
4 Marco Fuser, 3 Jacobus Roux, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Michele Rizzo
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Enrico Ceccato, 20 Filippo Giusti,
21 Christian Loamanu, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Brendan Williams
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Barrie O’Connell (Ireland)
Scarlets v Munster
(Parc y Scarlets – 18.30; 18.30 GMT)
Scarlets have won their last two fixtures at Parc y Scarlets, over Leicester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and Connacht in the Pro12.
Munster have won five of their last six contests in all competitions. The Munstermen have won their last two away games in the Pro12, but have not won three in a row on the road in the same season in the tournament since 2010/11.
Scarlets beat Munster 13-6 at Musgrave Park in Round Nine, and have not completed a league double over the Munstermen since 2003/04.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies. 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker (captain), 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Johnathan Edwards, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas 23 Nick Reynolds.
Munster: 15 Ian Keatley, 14 Denis Hurley, 13 Ivan Dineen, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry (captain), 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 John Ryan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 Danny Barnes, 23 Casey Laulala.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Table after Fourteen Rounds