PREVIEW: Pro14, Round 21
Whilst the Final Series qualifiers appear to be sorted in Conference A, just five Championship points separate the teams in second to fourth place in Conference B so it may not be until the final whistle blows on Saturday before we have the confirmed participants for the Pro14 Final Series.
After Saturday's action just six teams will be left in the mix in the battle to reach the Pro14 Final at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on May 26.
What's at Stake
The final round opens in South Africa when the Southern Kings face Toyota Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth. One point will guarantee Cheetahs third spot in Pool A, less if Cardiff Blues do not gain a maximum point win.
Former champions Connacht and Leinster meet at the Sportsground in Galway. One point will guarantee Leinster a home semifinal, less may be enough depending on Scarlets' result.
Scarlets are in action at the same time playing Dragons in the first of the 'Judgment Day' double-headers at Principality Stadium. Scarlets will be looking for a bonus-point win to at least secure home advantage in the Qualifiers, it could be less depending on Edinburgh and Ulster's results.
In the second 'Judgment Day'’ game Cardiff Blues face Ospreys. The Blues have already qualified for European Champions Cup action next season whilst Ospreys are in the Champions Cup Play-off. However, it may still be mathematically possible for Cardiff to overtake Cheetahs in third place.
Pride is at stake when Benetton host Zebre in Treviso, the Italian teams recording their best ever season in the Championship.
In Limerick, Ulster need a maximum point win and hope other results go their way to reach the Qualifiers from Pool B when they face Munster (who have already qualified for home Qualifier from pool A), at Thomond Park.
Pick of the Round: Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors
The round wraps up in Scotland when Edinburgh host Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield in what will also be the deciding leg of the 1872 Cup. Warriors have already qualified for a home semifinal from Pool A, whilst Edinburgh are still in mix alongside Scarlets and Ulster as Qualifiers from Pool B.
Opta Top Performers – Round 20:
Most tackles: 25 Cornell Du Preez (Edinburgh)
Most carries: 24 Sebastian Negri (Benetton)
Defenders beaten: 7 Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh)
Offloads: 4 Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) / Uzair Cassiem (Cheetahs)
Breaks: 5 Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh)
Metres made: 206 Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh)
Turnovers won: 3 Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh)/Kieron Fonotia (Ospreys)/Jean Deysel (Ulster)
Line-outs stolen: 2 Federico Ruzza (Benetton)/Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
We look ahead to all Round 21's action!
Saturday, April 28:
SOUTHERN KINGS v CHEETAHS
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 15.00; 13.00 GMT)
Southern Kings' only victory this season was 45-13 over Dragons in Port Elizabeth in Round 17. Cheetahs three game-winning run in the Pro14 ended with their 17-19 defeat at home to Munster last time out. Cheetahs have won just three times away from home this season, at Zebre in Round Seven, Southern Kings in Round 11 and Dragons in round 18. The two sides have met on six previous occasions in all competitions with Cheetahs running out victors on all occasions.
Southern Kings: 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Ntabeni Dukisa, 11 Harlon Klaasen, 10 Masixole Banda, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Khaya Majola, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Justin Forwood.
Replacements: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Luvuyo Pupuma, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 21 Lusanda Badiyana, 22 Jean-Pierre Smith, 23 Juan-Claude Roos.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Charl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lloyd Greeff.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
CONNACHT v LEINSTER
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 15.05; 14.05 GMT)
Connacht have lost their last five matches in all tournaments since their 22 -19 victory in Treviso on February 24. Connacht have lost their last three games in Galway since they beat Ospreys there in Round 14 of the Pro14. The Leinstermen's only victory in the last four rounds of the Pro14 was 41-6 at home to Zebre
on April 7. Leinster have not won away from home since their trip to Montpellier in Round Six of the European Champions Cup in January. Leinster's record against fellow Irish provinces this season is a perfect played five, won five. Leinster have won their last three matches against Connacht since their western rivals beat them 20-10 to take the 2016 Pro12 crown at Murrayfield.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Darragh Leader.
Leinster: Joey Carbery, 14 Barry Daly, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Noel Reid, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Peadar Timmins, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath (captain).
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Jordan Larmour, 23 Adam Byrne.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
DRAGONS v SCARLETS
(Principality Stadium, Cardiff – Kick-off: 15.05; 14.05 GMT)
Dragons have not won in the Pro14 since a 29-13 home victory over Southern Kings at the end of September. Dragons have visited Principality Stadium on five previous occasions (all on ‘Judgement Days’) and lost them all. Scarlets have won just twice in the last seven rounds of the Pro14, both at Parc y Scarlets, against Ulster in Round 16 and Glasgow in Round 19. Scarlets have played six previous matches at Principality Stadium in all tournaments, with their only defeat there being 13-17 to Cardiff Blues in ‘Judgement Day II’ in 2014. Scarlets have won their last eight matches against Dragons in the Pro14, whilst Dragons only victory in their last nineteen contests with their westerly rivals in the Championship was 23-16 at Rodney Parade in September 2013.
Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Connor Edwards, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Arwel Rosbon, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee (captain), 1 Thomas Davies.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Max Williams, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Joe Goodchild.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Ioan Nicholas, 13 Scott Williams (captain), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 John Barclay, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
CARDIFF BLUES v OSPREYS
(Principality Stadium, Cardiff – Kick-off: 17.35; 16.35 GMT)
Cardiff Blues only defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions was 27-29 to Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in Round 19. The Blues previous record on 'Judgement Day' is won two, lost three, whilst their overall record in all competitions at Principality Stadium is an even won five, drawn one, lost five. Ospreys have slipped to back-to-back defeats in the Pro14, at Ulster and at Zebre. Ospreys have made eight previous appearances at Principality Stadium in all tournaments, winning the first six but losing the last two, against Stade Francais in last season's European Challenge Cup quarterfinal and to Cardiff Blues in 'Judgement Day V'. Ospreys have lost only one of their last fourteen encounters with The Blues in the Championship: 17-35 at Principality Stadium in this fixture last season.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe (c), 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 James Down, 4 Damian Welch, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ben Murphy, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Harri Millard, 23 Max Llewellyn
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Cross, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Giorgi Nemsadze, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Neil Hennessey (Wales)
MUNSTER v ULSTER
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 17.35; 16.35 GMT)
Munster have won their last three matches in the Pro14 but have not managed four wins in succession this season. The Munstermen' s only home defeat in any tournament since February 2017 was 24-34 to Leinster at Thomond Park on December 26. Ulster have won their last three matches in the Pro14 but have not won four in a row since the opening four games of this campaign. The Ulstermen have won just three times on the road in the Championship this season, in Treviso in Round Two, Port Elizabeth in Round Eight and in Edinburgh in Round 19. Ulster beat Munster in Belfast in Round 12 and have not achieved a season’s double over them since season 2013/14. Ulster's only win at Thomond Park in the Championship since 2009 was in May 2014.
Munster: 15 Stephen Fitzgerald, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Brian Scott, 2 Mike Sherry (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 James Hart, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Shane Daly.
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Dave Shanahan, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Ross Kane, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O'Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 Tommy Bowe.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Aled Evans (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
BENETTON v ZEBRE
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 18.00; 16.00 GMT)
Benetton have won their last three Pro14 matches and have suffered only two defeats in the last ten rounds. Another victory would equal their best ever winning run in the Championship set in 2011/12. Benetton have lost just once at home in the Pro14 since early December: 19-22 to Connacht in Round 16. Zebre have won their last two Pro14 matches but have never won three in a row in the Championship. Zebre have won only once away from home in the Championship since September: 19-11 against Connacht in Galway in Round 15. Benetton have won their last four matches against Zebre since their rival's 18-8 victory in Treviso in January 2016.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Federico Ruzza, 5 Alessandro Zanni, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Abraham Steyn, 22 Luca Sperandio, 23 Marty Banks.
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello (capatin), 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 David Sisi, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 George Biagi, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Edoardo Padovani, 23 Gabriele Di Giulio.
Referee: Tom Foley (England)
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino (Italy), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)
EDINBURGH v GLASGOW WARRIORS
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Edinburgh's only defeat in the last eight rounds of the Pro14 was 20-32 to Ulster at Murrayfield on April 6. Edinburgh have lost on just two of their last eight visits to Murrayfield in all competitions. Glasgow Warriors have gained just three victories in the last seven rounds of the Pro14, all at Scotstoun, against the Cheetahs, Zebre and Connacht. The 1872 Cup is up for grabs with each side having won its respective home game in the Pro14 this season. Warriors have been victorious just once in their last five visits to Murrayfield: 25-12 on 26 December 2016.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Bill Mata, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Jordan Lay.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Allan Dell, 18 WP Nel, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.
Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Alex Allan.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Lee Jones.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Dunx McClement (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)