With the half way stage of the season now passed, teams will now concentrate on their push for a top four placing to secure a spot in the Magners League semi-finals. Results over the Festive period mean that Munster have pulled nine points clear at the top of the table, but there is a real scramble for the remaining Play-off spots with just six points separating the next five teams, but of those Ulster and Cardiff Blues both have a game in hand.
The pick of the action in round 13 must come at the RDS on Friday night when 3rd placed Leinster host 4th placed Ospreys in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final. With just one point separating the teams there is a massive incentive to win this game, denying the losers any points in the process.
The round starts on Thursday night with Newport Gwent Dragons hosting Connacht. Connacht may have lost 8 games this season, but they have picked up 5 bonus points in those losses, meaning that they are only two points behind Dragons in the table. A rare away victory for the Irish province could see the teams change places.
Returning to Friday night Ulster host this season’s surprise package, Benetton Treviso, at Ravenhill. Four match points separate these two teams who sit 6th and 8th in the table with six wins apiece. Ulster must be hoping to regain the top four place they lost after Round 10 and victory in this game could mark the start of a resurgence.
The other Italian team, Aironi Rugby, are also in action on Friday night, this time in Wales when they play Cardiff Blues. Fifth placed Blues are just one point short of a Play-Off spot with a game in hand, and with the two teams ahead of them, Leinster and Ospreys, playing each other Blues could take the opportunity to leapfrog over the losers of that game.
The round wraps up with both Scottish teams in action on Saturday night , Edinburgh hosting Scarlets at Murrayfield and Glasgow Warriors making the trip to Cork to play league leaders Munster. The Scots may have shared the honours in their derby games over the holidays with one win apiece, but they will now be facing the top two teams in the table, with Munster in particular being in formidable form, so may find a victory harder to come by.
Thursday 6 January – NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS v CONNACHT, at Rodney Parade, 7.35pm.
TV: Live on S4C RTE Sport
Referee: Alan Lewis (IRFU, 37th League game)
Newport Gwent Dragons’ only win in their last six matches in all competitions was 20-6 at home to Munster in the Magners League on 26 November. Dragons have won their last three games at Rodney Parade, whilst the last seven Irish sides to visit the venue have all lost.
Connacht have lost their last eight encounters in all competitions since their 16-13 victory over Bayonne on 15 October. The Irishmen have won just once away from home in the Magners League since April 2008: 19-17 at Glasgow on 17 September 2010.
The last five clashes between the two sides have all been won by the home team on the day. Connacht won 40-17 against Dragons in round one but have not achieved a season’s double over the Welshmen since 2007/08.
Friday 7 January – CARDIFF BLUES v AIRONI RUGBY, At Cardiff City Stadium 7.30pm.
Referee: Peter Allan ( SRU, 42nd League game)
Cardiff Blues ended a three game losing run with their 27-25 victory over Ospreys on New Year’s Eve. The Blues have won all seven previous encounters against Italian opponents in all competitions.
Aironi Rugby are still without a win in the Magners League but have picked up losing bonus points in each of their last two matches. Blues won 20-3 when the two sides met at Stadio Zaffanella in October.
Friday 7 January – LEINSTER v OSPREYS, At RDS Dublin 7.35pm
TV: Live on TG4, BBC Wales and Dahlia TV
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 69th League game).
Leinster have won their last three matches in all competitions since their 13-20 reversal in Montferrand on 12 December. The Leinstermen’s only defeat at the RDS in the Magners League since September 2008 was to Ospreys in last season’s Grand Final.
Ospreys 25-27 defeat at Cardiff on New Year’s Eve ended a four game winning run in all competitions. Ospreys have won just once on the road since October: 16-15 at Connacht in the Magners League on 19 November. The Welshmen have won their last two fixtures with Leinster.
Friday 7 January – ULSTER v BENETTON TREVISO, At Ravenhill, 7.05pm.
TV: Live on BBC Sport NI
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU, 4th League game).
Ulster have lost their last two matches to Leinster and Munster and have not won at Ravenhill in the Magners League since Glasgow were the visitors on 1 October.
Benetton Treviso took both “legs” of the Italian derby with Aironi over the holiday season. Treviso have not won a game outside of Italy since a trip to the Dragons in the European Cup on 15 December 2007.
Ulster have won all five previous encounters with Treviso in all competitions.
Saturday 8 January – EDINBURGH v SCARLETS, At Murrayfield, 6.30pm
TV: Live on S4C and Dahlia TV
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU, 46th League game).
Edinburgh’s last nine matches in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day. The Scotsmen have won their last five home games at Murrayfield in the Magners League since Munster won there, 16-13, on 10 September.
Scarlets have suffered just one defeat in their last six matches in all competitions: 17-60 at Ospreys in the Magners League on 27 December. Scarlets have won in Scotland just once since 2005: 19-13 against the now defunct Border Reivers at Netherdale on 10 November 2006.
Edinburgh have won five of their last six matches against Scarlets, whilst the Welshmen have never won on Edinburgh soil since the Region was formed in 2003.
Saturday 8 January – MUNSTER v GLASGOW WARRIORS, At Musgrave Park, 7.30pm.
TV: Live on RTE Sport and BBC Alba
Referee: James Jones (WRU,46th League game).
Table topping Munster have dropped just three of a possible 30 league points in home games in the Magners League this season. The Munstermen have won their last four matches against Scottish opponents.
Glasgow Warriors have won just one of their last five encounters in all competitions: 30-18 at home to Edinburgh on 27 December. The Warriors’ solo away win since last January was 37-32 at Scarlets in the Magners League on 7 May.
Munster have won four of their last five matches with Glasgow, whilst the Warriors most recent victory on Munster soil was 21-18 at Musgrave Park on 10 May 2008.