Round Eight of the Pro12 kicks off on Friday night with both Scottish teams in action – early season leaders Glasgow Warriors welcoming Newport Gwent Dragons to Scotstoun, whilst Edinburgh travel to Belfast to face Ulster.
Glasgow are building a formidable home reputation since their move to their new base at Scotstoun, so Dragons will have their work cut out if they hope to come away with the points.
Ulster have a similar reputation at Ravenhill Stadium, coincidently their most recent Pro12 loss coming at the hands of a Scottish team, Glasgow Warriors.
In the early game on Saturday, Zebre are the visitors at the Liberty Stadium to face third-placed Ospreys. The Italian outfit lost by just one point when they played at the stadium in January, so they will hope to go one better this time.
Table-topping Munster are also in action on Saturday facing Welsh opposition for the second round in a row, this time travelling to the Principality to play Cardiff Blues. A similar result to their last outing could see them retain their pole position on the table.
Meanwhile, Scarlets make the reverse trip over the Irish Sea to play Connacht in Galway. Scarlets are just outside the play-off zone but know every point counts at this time of the season if they are to make the final cut off for the top four.
The round wraps up in Treviso, Italy, on Sunday with Leinster the visitors to Stadio Monigo. Having lifted themselves into the fourth play-off spot with victory over Dragons in the last round, Leinster will be looking for a win to consolidate their position.
We look at all the Round Eight matches!
Friday 22 November:
Glasgow Warriors v Newport Gwent Dragons (Scotstoun Stadium – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors’ only defeat in the Pro12 this season was 6-13 at home to Munster in Round Six, this represents the Scotsmen’s single defeat at Scotstoun in any competition in 2013. The Warriors have lost only once to a Welsh region in their last nine such encounters: 6-29 at Scarlets in April.
Newport Gwent Dragons have lost their last two Pro12 matches to Ospreys and Leinster and have not won away from home in any tournament since visiting Zebre in February. The Dragons have been defeated in their last four clashes with Scottish opponents.
Glasgow are unbeaten in their last seven encounters with Dragons since the Welshmen won 23-11 at Rodney Parade in the Pro12 in September 2010, a sequence which has included two draws. The men from Gwent have not been victorious on Glasgow soil since a trip to Firhill in January 2009.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Finn Russell, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Scott Wight, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gordon Reid. Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 George Hunter, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 James Eddie, 20 Leone Nakarawa, 21 Josh Strauss, 22 Mark Bennett / Rory Hughes, 23 Jack Steele.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ross Wardle 11 Matthew Pewtner, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 James Benjamin, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Robert Sidoli (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Francisco Chaparro, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Owen Evans. Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Dan Way, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Ashley Smith.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Ulster v Edinburgh (Ravenhill Stadium – Kick-off: 19.05; 19.05 GMT)
Ulster’s six-game winning run in all competitions ended when they visited Scarlets in the Pro12 on November 2. The Ulstermen’s only defeat at Ravenhill Stadium since February was 12-13 to Glasgow on September 13. Ulster have been defeated in their last three encounters with Scottish opponents.
Edinburgh have won their last two Pro12 matches against Treviso and Zebre with both games being played at Murrayfield. The Scotsmen have won only once on the road since last December: 9-7 at Zebre in March. Edinburgh have beaten an Irish province on their own soil just once since 2009: 24-23 against Connacht in Galway in December 2012.
Each side won its respective home game when they met in the Pro12 last season whilst Edinburgh have not been victorious in Belfast since September 2009.
Ulster: 15 Craig Gilroy, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen, 10 James McKinney, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack (captain), 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black. Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Ian Porter, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Ricky Andrew.
Edinburgh: 15 Greg Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Joaquin Dominguez, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant (captain), 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Wicus Blaauw Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Tom Brown
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales) Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Kevin Beggs (Ireland) TMO: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Saturday 23 November:
Cardiff Blues v Munster (Cardiff Arms Park – Kick-off: 18.30; 18.30 GMT)
Cardiff Blues’ last four games in the Pro12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only victory over an Irish province in their last six fixtures was 21-10 at home to Connacht on September 13.
Munster have lost only one of their last six matches in all tournaments: 23-29 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the European Cup on October 12. The Munstermen have won both of their clashes with Welsh regions so far this season.
The Blues’ 17-6 victory in Cork in January ended a five-game losing run to Munster, whilst the Irishmen have not lost to the Blues in Wales since 2010.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Simon Humberstone, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Thomas Young, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Luke Hamilton, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Gareth Davies.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Denis Hurley.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland) Assistant referees: Greg Morgan (Wales), Justin Williams (Wales) TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Connacht v Scarlets (Sportsground – Kick-off: 17.00; 17.00 GMT)
Connacht’s solo victory in the Pro12 this season came in the opening game at home to Zebre, 25-16. Welsh opponents have won on five of their last seven visits to Galway.
Scarlets have lost only one of their last four Pro12 fixtures: 12-17 at home to Glasgow in Round Five. The Welshmen have been defeated on their last four visits to Ireland in all tournaments since beating Munster 13-6 in Cork in the Pro12 twelve months ago.
Scarlets have won their last three encounters with Connacht since the Irishmen’s 13-11 victory at the Sportsground in September 2011.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Aly Muldowney, 5 Craig Clarke (captain), 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Fionn Carr.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Frazier Climo, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nic Reynolds, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (captain).
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Ian Jones, 19 Jo Synman, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Kristian Phillips.
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy) Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Ospreys v Zebre (Liberty Stadium – Kick-off: 14.30; 14.30 GMT)
Ospreys have won just one of their last three Pro12 matches: 40-17 at home to the Dragons in Round Six. Italian teams have visited Liberty Stadium on 11 previous occasions in all tournaments – all have been defeated.
Zebre already have a victory and a draw this season with both of those results coming against Welsh opponents, beating the Blues at the Arms Park and tying with the Scarlets in Parma.
The two teams have met just twice before with Ospreys gaining a bonus-point victory in Parma and Zebre losing by the narrowest of margins on their only previous visit to Liberty Stadium in January.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland) Assistant referees: Martyn Lewis (Wales), Craig Evans (Wales)
Sunday 24 November:
Treviso v Leinster (Stadio Monigo – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Treviso have won just one of their last four matches in the Pro12: 23-3 at home to Connacht in Round Five, the only one of those games played in Treviso.
The Italians have lost only one Pro12 games at Stadio Monigo in the last twelve months: 19-24 to Ospreys on September 7. The Italian’s only defeat in their last six encounters with Irish provinces was 13-32 in Ulster in September.
Leinster have won their last four matches in all tournaments, and have been victorious in their last 11 fixtures against Italian opponents.
Treviso’s only victory in their eight previous clashes with Leinster in all competitions was 29-13 at Stadio Monigo in the Pro12 in September 2010.
Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Andrea Pratichetti, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Marco Filippucci, 7 Dean Budd, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain), 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 2 Franco Sbaraglini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Enrico Ceccato, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Filippo Giusti, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 James Ambrosini, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Leinster: 15 Darren Hudson, 14 Lote Tuqiri, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Darragh Fanning, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 John Cooney, 8 Leo Auva’a, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Collie O’Shea.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland) Assistant referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Giorgio Sgardiolo (Italy) TMO: Mauro Dordolo (Italy)