ROUND 15 of the Magners League opens on Friday night with two games in Ireland, the first an intriguing battle between Connacht and Glasgow Warriors. Should the home team manage to complete a first ever season double over their opponents, they will leapfrog above them in the Magners League table, as both have currently amassed 21 points.
Munster are also in action when they welcome Edinburgh to Thomond Park. Despite the League leaders tripping up in Italy last weekend, they still have a 7 point lead over their nearest rivals and are a comfortable 11 points clear of the cut-off for the Play-Off Zone.
The final game on Friday night pits 4th placed Scarlets against 6th placed Ulster. Scarlets drooped two places in the table after their unexpected loss in Connacht last time out, so will be looking for match points to maintain their top four spot.
On Saturday Benetton Treviso host Ospreys at Stadio Monigo. After defeating the current League leaders, Munster, at the ground last weekend, victory over the current champions Ospreys would certainly add to the home team’s impressive first season. Ospreys have slipped out of the top four in the last couple of rounds, and need to make the Play-Offs to have any chance of retaining their title.
Also on Saturday 2nd play 3rd when Leinster travel to Wales to face Cardiff Blues. Leinster have maintained a steady progression up the table since round four, and now hold the coveted home semi-final spot, however their opponents, Cardiff Blues have a game in hand and are only 2 points adrift of second place.
The round wraps up in Italy on Sunday with Newport Gwent Dragons facing Aironi. The Italian outfit are still looking for their first victory in the competition, and nearly pulled off a shock win over Leinster in Dublin last time out. Dragons have not won on the road for 15 months so will have to be on their guard not to slip up on this trip.
Friday 18 February
CONNACHT v GLASGOW WARRIORS At Sportsground, 7.00pm.
Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU 33rd League game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Peter Roche (both IRFU).
Connacht have won their last three matches in all competitions, since their 16-17 reversal at Newport Gwent Dragons in the Magners League on 6 January. Connacht have lost just one of their last four matches against Scottish opponents. Glasgow Warriors have lost their last three games in the Magners League, since beating Edinburgh at Firhill on 27 December. The Warriors 23-16 victory at the Dragons in the European Cup ended a nine game losing run on the road in all competitions. Connacht beat Glasgow 19-17 at Firhill in round three and have never before achieved a season’s double over the Scotsmen.
MUNSTER v EDINBURGH RUGBY
At Thomond Park, 7.50pm. Live on TG4
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 71st League game)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Brian Macneice (both IRFU).
TMO: Brian Fitzgerald (IRFU).
Table topping Munster’s four game winning run in the Magners League came to an end in Treviso on Sunday. The Munstermen have won all eleven home matches they have played in all competitions this season. Munster have won their last five encounters against Scottish opponents. Edinburgh have lost their last four fixtures in all competitions The Scotsmen’s solo victory on the road in their last 17 matches was 10-9 at Viadana in the Magners League on 2 October. Edinburgh’s most recent win in Ireland was 16-13 at Ulster on 18 September 2009. Munster have lost just once in their last eight encounters with Edinburgh since 2006: 7-12 at Murrayfield on 23 October 2009.
SCARLETS v ULSTER
At Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm. Live on BBC Wales
Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU, 33rd League game)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Huw Griffiths (both WRU).
TMO: Hugh Watkins (WRU).
Scarlets have lost their last five matches in all competitions since beating Edinburgh 21-16 at Murrayfield in the Magners League on 8 January. The Welshmen’s only defeat at Parc y Scarlets in their last six encounters was 18-21 to Ospreys on 2 October. Ulster’s three match winning run in all competitions ended at Ospreys on Sunday. The Ulstermen have won on only one of their last four visits to Wales: 37-15 at Cardiff Blues on 21 November. Scarlets have won three of their last four clashes with Ulster, whilst the Ulstermen have never won in Llanelli.
Saturday 19 February
BENETTON TREVISO v OSPREYS
At Stadio Monigo, 5.30pm local time (4.30pm UK & Ireland).
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 9th League game)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Traversi, Claudio Passacantando (both FIR).
Munster have won more home games this season. Ospreys have won their last four matches in all competitions, but their only win on the road in the Magners League since October was 16-15 at Connacht on 19 November. The Welshmen have won all eight previous matches they have played against Italian opponents. The two teams have met on three previous occasions with Ospreys victorious each time, whilst Ospreys won 36-16 on their only previous visit to Stadio Monigo – in the European Cup on 13 December 2008.
CARDIFF BLUES v LEINSTER
At Cardiff City Stadium, 6.30pm. Live on S4C
Referee: Carlo Damasco (FIR, 11th League game)
Assistant Referees: James Jones, Phil Connett (both WRU).
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU).
Cardiff Blues have won their last three games in the Magners League since the 9-16 reversal at Munster on 4 December. Blues only win over an Irish side so far this season was at home to Connacht on 30 September. Leinster have won their last seven matches in all competitions. The Leinstermen’s only Magners League defeat since round four was 15-19 at Ospreys on 28 November. Leinster are unbeaten in their last seven clashes with the Blues since 2007.
Sunday 20 February
AIRONI v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS
At Stadio Zaffanella, 5.30pm local time (4.30pm UK & Ireland).
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU, 31st League game)
Assistant Referees: Giulio de Santis Domenico Sironi, (both FIR).
Aironi have obtained a losing bonus point in three of their last four Magners League matches. Aironi’s only victory so far remains their 28-27 win over Biarritz in the European Cup on 11 December. Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last three matches in all competitions, and have won three of their last four games in the Magners League. The Dragons most recent Magners League win outside of Wales was 9-8 at Edinburgh on 1 November 2009. Dragons took the only previous meeting between the two sides, 36-5, at Rodney Parade in October.