Thu 20 Feb 2014 | 06:38
Preview: Pro12, Round 15
Thu 20 Feb 2014 | 06:38
Preview: Pro12, Round 15SHARE
With the international weekend kicking off on Friday, the majority of the Pro12 games take place on Sunday.
However Cardiff Blues open the round on Thursday with their game against current champions Leinster at the Arms Park, and if past form is any guide, Cardiff will have their work cut to claim victory.
The sole game on Saturday is also in Wales with Edinburgh visiting Llanelli to play the Scarlets, who missed out last round due to the weather in Belfast.
The Scots have not travelled well of late, so the Scarlets will be hoping to take advantage of that to put their own home record back on track in this fixture.
The remaining four games take place on Sunday, with a double header in Italy.
Treviso will host Ulster, while Zebre will face another Irish province, Connacht.
Connacht’s victory over Ediburgh last time out saw them swap places with Zebre at the foot of the table, which could be reversed once more if Zebre claim this tie.
Ulster will be hoping they can make up some ground on the teams above them in the play-off zone.
At the same time the two remaining Welsh regions will be in action in the principality.
Newport Gwent Dragons opponents, the Glasgow Warriors, currently sit in fourth place in the table courtesy of having one win more than Ulster, and still have two games in hand over the three teams above them.
The pick of the weekend is the top-of-the-table clash in Swansea.
Leaders Munster travel to face third placed Ospreys, who claimed a record victory over Treviso in their last game at the Liberty Stadium. Both teams will be looking for a win to stake their claim for a home play-off spot.
We look at all the Round 15 matches!
Thursday, February 20:
Cardiff Blues v Leinster
(Arms Park – Kick-off: 20.05, 20.05 GMT)
Cardiff Blues’ only victory in their last seven Pro12 contests came at home 21-13 over Newport on New Year’s Day. The Blues have beaten an Irish province just once in their last eight encounters, when they won 21-10 against Connacht at the Arms Park in round two this season. They suffered a 20-27 defeat at home to Glasgow Warriors last week.
Leinster have lost just once in the Pro12 since round five – a 6-11 loss at Edinburgh on the in December. The Leinstermen have not been defeated by a Welsh region in any competition since they visited Ospreys in the Pro12 in November 2012. They enjoyed a 31-19 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons last time out.
Cardiff Blues have won just one of their last 14 encounters with Leinster since 2007 – an 11-3 win in the Pro12 at the Cardiff City Stadium in February 2011.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Isaia Tuifua, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Oaulo, 4 James Down, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Tom Davies, 18 Patrick Palmer, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Tom Williams.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Luke Fitzgerald/Sam Coghlan-Murray, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin (captain), 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Edward Byrne, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darren Hudson
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Greg Morgan (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Saturday, February 22:
Scarlets v Edinburgh
(Parc y Scarlets – Kick-off: 14.30, 14.30 GMT)
Scarlets’ round 14 game against Ulster fell foul of the weather, but the Welshmen’s 41-33 victory over Treviso in round 13 ended a four game losing streak in the Pro12.
Scarlets have won just two of their last six home games in the tournament – against Treviso and Ulster.
Edinburgh have slipped to defeat in their last two Pro12 games, against Glasgow Warriors (16-20) and Connacht (7-11), whilst their only away victory in the competition since December 2012 came at Zebre in March.
The Scotsmen have won just once in their last 17 visits to Wales since 2009 – a 21-19 victory over the Cardiff Blues in September 2012.
The Scarlets have won six of their last seven fixtures against Edinburgh, the loss a 23-26 reverse at Murrayfield in 2012, whilst Edinburgh’s only victory at Parc y Scarlets was a 17-16 triumph in December 2009.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Sean Bricknell (Wales), Jonathan Hardy (Wales)
TMO: Aurwel Morgan (Wales)
Sunday, February 23:
Treviso v Ulster
(Stadio Monigo – Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00 GMT)
Treviso have slipped to five straight defeats in all competitions since beating Zebre over Christmas. They were beaten by the Scarlets in their most recent home game in the Pro12 but have not lost successive matches in the tournament at Stadio Monigo since November 2012.
They will be looking to bounce back from their 7-75 thrashing at the hands of Ospreys last week.
Ulster’s only defeat in their last ten fixtures in all tournaments since early November was a 6-19 loss to Leinster at the RDS in the Pro12 on the 28th of December.
The two sides have met on 12 previous occasions in all tournaments with Ulster winning 11 times, Treviso once and one draw.
Ulster have won on all six previous visits to the Stadio Monigo.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Andrea Spadoni (Italy), TBC
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Newport Gwent Dragons v Glasgow Warriors
(Rodney Parade – Kick-off: 14.30, 14.30 GMT)
Newport Gwent Dragons’ only victory in their last five Pro12 matches came at home against Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day (22-16).
The Dragons have only lost twice at Rodney Parade in the Pro12 since last March, and both were against Irish provinces – Leinster and Munster. They come off a 19-31 reverse to Leinster last time out.
Glasgow Warriors’ 27-20 victory at Cardiff last week set a new record for successive away victories in the tournament, taking it to seven. The Warriors have lost only one of their last eight visits to Wales in the Pro12, when they lost 6-29 to the Scarlets in April 2013.
Dragons won 23-8 when they played the Warriors at Scotstoun in round 8 but have not achieved a season’s double over the Scotsmen since the 2006/07 season.
Newport Gwent Dragons: TBC
Glasgow Warriors: TBC
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Ryhs Thomas (Wales), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
TMO: Russell Howell (Wales)
Ospreys v Munster:
(Liberty Stadium – Kick-off: 16.00, 16.00 GMT)
Ospreys’ 75-7 demolition of Treviso last week was their biggest victory since the region was formed in 2003.
The Swansea-based side’s only two defeats at the Liberty Stadium in the Pro12 since September 2012 were the Ulster and Glasgow in round five and nine this season. The Welshmen have only one of their last nine contests with Irish provinces – a 53-26 win against Connacht in Galway last September.
Munster continue to set the pace at the top of the Pro12 standings, having suffered just one defeat in the tournament since round 3, when they lost 19-29 to Ulster.
However, Munster have lost on their last three visits to the Libery Stadium since their 22-20 victory in 2011.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Zebre v Connacht
(Stadio XXV Aprile – Kick-off: 16.30, 15.30 GMT)
Zebre’s only previous home victory came against Treviso on the fourth of January this year, whilst they have lost in all 18 previous encounters with Irish provinces in all tournaments. Last week they lost 8-36 away to Munster.
Connacht’s 11-7 victory over Edinburgh last week ended their three game losing streak in the Pro12.
The Irishmen are still without a victory away from home in the tournament this season, but have won twice on their travels in the European Cup, against Zebre and, notably, Toulouse.
Connacht have won all seven previous contests they have had with Zebre in all tournaments.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Giuseppe (Italy), Elia Rizzo (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)