The top-of-the-table clash at Thomond Park between Munster and Ospreys on Saturday headlines Round Seven of the Pro12. Munster currently lead the pack thanks to winning one more game than Ospreys, but Ospreys have garnered more bonus points in the six rounds than their hosts, so the scene is set for an epic battle.
Having had the wealth of five fixtures to choose from last Friday night, there are only two games on Friday in Round Seven – Edinburgh host Zebre whilst Newport Gwent Dragons face reigning champions Leinster.
Zebre are the second Italian opponents to travel to the Scottish capital in succession, but will hope to come away with more than just the losing bonus point their compatriots gained last week.
Leinster are just one place in the table above their opponents, Dragons, and as they head towards the November internationals, they will be keen to secure as many points as possible from their trip to Rodney Parade.
On Saturday, eighth-placed Cardiff Blues host ninth-placed Treviso at the Arms Park. The teams are level with 10 points apiece, so victory for either strikes a blow to their nearest rivals.
Ulster are the visitors to Parc y Scarlets in a reverse of last season’s play-off, a game that the visitors won by an 11-point margin. However, having drawn their last two games in all competitions, Scarlets will be keen to get back to winning ways.
The final game of the round sees the early season leaders, Glasgow Warriors, face a team sitting at the wrong end of the table, Connacht.
With the two teams above them in the table playing each other, Warriors have the chance to make up the ground they lost in their last outing when defeated by Munster.
We look at all the Round Seven matches!
Friday, November 1:
Edinburgh v Zebre (Murrayfield – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Edinburgh entertain Italian opponents in the Pro12 for the second week running, having lowered the colours of Treviso last Friday at Murrayfield. The Scotsmen have won four of their last five games at Murrayfield in all competitions, whilst the only Italian side to beat Edinburgh at the famous old ground was Treviso in October 2012.
Zebre came within a whisker of beating the Scarlets in Italy on Friday, leading 16-13 until Rhys Priestland kicked an injury time penalty goal to tie the scores. After only six rounds of play, Zebre have already tallied seven league points, only three shy of their entire tally in their debut season, 2012/13.
Edinburgh won both encounters last season although in Parma in March it was by a margin of just two points.
Edinburgh: 15 Greg Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Joaquin Dominguez, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant (captain), 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Izak van der Westuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Wiccus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Ross Rennie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Lee Jones.
Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Emiliano Caffini, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quentin Geldenhuys, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Davide Giazzoni, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Luciano Leibson, 17 Andrea de Marchi, 18 David Ryan, 19 Michael van Vuren, 20 Andrea Manici, 21 David Odiete, 23 Giulio Toniolatti.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales) Assistant referees: David Changleng (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
Newport Gwent Dragons v Leinster (Rodney Parade – Kick-off: 19.05; 18.05 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons have slipped to back-to-back defeats in all competitions, but have not lost at Rodney Parade in the Pro12 since Leinster were the visitors in March.
Leinster achieved a third successive victory in all competitions last Saturday in narrowly overcoming Connacht at the RDS, having only led for the first time in the game in the 77th minute. The Leinstermen have not been defeated by a Welsh region in 2013, the last side to do so being Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in November 2012.
Leinster have won their last six encounters with the Dragons since the Welshmen’s last success at Rodney Parade on December 6, 2009.
Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner will make his first start for the Irish club.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ross Wardle, 11 Adam Hughes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei. 7 Lewis Evans (captain), 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Dan Way, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Owen Evans. Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Dan Evans.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 John Cooney, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent. Replacements:16 James Tracy, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 Leo Auva’a, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Brendan Macken.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland) Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Saturday, November 2
Cardiff Blues v Treviso (Arms Park – Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)
Cardiff Blues’ last five matches in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Blues’ only defeat at the Arms Park since February was 25-30 to Zebre in Round Three of the Pro12.
Likewise, Treviso’s last five games have also been won by the home side on the day. The Italian’s only victory outside Italy since April 2012 came at the Scarlets in Round 22 of last season.
Cardiff Blues won their first five encounters with Treviso but were defeated in their most recent fixture 17-26 at Stadio Monigo in March.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi (captain), 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Fau Filise,2 Kevin Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 James Down, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Aled Summerhill, 23 Harry Robinson.
Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Andrea Pratichetti, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Valerio Bernabò (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Enrico Ceccato, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Corniel Van Zyl, 20 Marco Filippucci, 21 Christian Loamanu, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 James Ambrosini.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland) Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors (Sportsground – Kick-off: 17.00; 16.00 GMT)
Connacht’s tense late defeat at Leinster last Saturday, having led for virtually the whole game, sees them prop up the Pro12 table for the first time since season 2005/06. The Irishmen’s solo victory at the Sportsground since March was 25-16 over Zebre in Round One.
Glasgow Warriors tripped up to a first defeat this season at home to Munster last Friday, their first reversal in the regular season since April. The Warriors have won all three away games they have played this season and have won on two of their last three visits to Ireland.
Connacht have not beaten Glasgow since an encounter at the Galway Sportsground in February 2011.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Darragh Leader, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks ,9 Kieran Marmion, 1 Brett Wilkinson 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Michael Swift (captain), 5 Craig Clarke, 6 Mata Fifita, 7 Jake Heenan, 8 George Naoupu
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Nathan White, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Mick Kearney, 21 Paul O’Donohoe , 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Nikola Matawalu, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Chris Cusiter (Captain), 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Dougie Hall, 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Tom Ryder, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Robert Harley, 7 Chris Fusaro, 8 Josh Strauss
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Moray Low, 18 Ed Kalman, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Leone Nakarawa, 21 Tyrone Holmes, 22 Scott Wight, 23 Finn Russell
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland) Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Kim Imbusch (Ireland) TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Munster v Ospreys (Thomond Park – Kick-off: 19.15; 18.15 GMT)
Munster returned to the top of the table following their toppling of previous leaders Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun last Saturday. The Munstermen’s only loss in their last seven fixtures in the competition came in Treviso in Round Three, whilst the only opponents from outside Ireland to have beaten Munster at Thomond Park in the tournament since October 2006 have been Ospreys – twice.
Ospreys rose to second spot in the standings with their 40-17 bonus-point victory over the Dragons at Liberty Stadium last Friday. The Welshmen have won only one of their last seven encounters with Irish provinces in all competitions: 43-26 at Connacht on September 28.
Ospreys are unbeaten in their last five fixtures against the Munstermen, since Munster were victorious 18-11 in the Pro12 play-off in May 2011.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander. 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Dave Foley, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley (captain), 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Cian Bohane.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Jonathan Spratt (captain), 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Tito Tibaldi, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 James King, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Joe Rees, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Rhodri Hughes, 20 Arthur Ellis, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy) Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland) TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Scarlets v Ulster (Parc y Scarlets Kick-off: 18.30; 17.30 GMT)
Scarlets’ 16-all draw in Parma last Friday was their second in succession following the 26-all tie at home to Racing Metro in the European Cup.
Scarlets have won just one home game since April: 26-10 over Treviso on September 14. The Welshmen have been defeated in their last three clashes with Irish provinces.
Ulster have won their last six fixtures in all competitions since Glasgow beat them 13-12 at Ravenhill Stadium on September 13. Ulster’s only loss in their last six matches with Welsh regions was 8-15 to the Dragons at Rodney Parade in the opening round of the Pro12 this season.
Scarlets’ only victory over the Ulstermen since March 2010 was 24-17 at Parc y Scarlets in October 2011.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (captain).
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Johan Synman, 20 John Barclay, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Chris Knight.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne (captain), 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Roger Wilson, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 James McKinney, 22 Ricky Andrew, 23 David McIlwaine.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland) Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Andrew Davies (Wales) TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Josh Strauss ‘Movember look’