PRO12 preview: Saturday, Sunday

Date published: April 7 2017

Title contenders Ospreys host Leinster while Munster are at home to 2015 champions Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 this weekend.

Zebre v Dragons

Zebre make two changes to the starting XV that beat Connacht last week as they look to beat the Dragons on Saturday.

Edoardo Padovani and Johan Meyer are named at full-back and flanker respectively for the game at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Meanwhile, Dragons wing Adam Hughes will make his 100th start for the region this weekend.

Hughes has been named in the starting XV as Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones makes three personnel changes and two positional changes to the team that were narrowly defeated by Ulster two weeks ago at Rodney Parade.

There is just one change in the backs as wing Pat Howard returns to the starting line-up to replace Tom Prydie, who moves to the bench for this match.

Prop Phil Price returns to the front row alongside Brok Harris and hooker Rhys Buckley. The second row sees Welsh international Cory Hill return to make his first appearance for the Dragons since his time on international duty. He is joined in the second row by South African lock Rynard Landman.

The back row includes Nick Crosswell moving from the second row to flanker and Ollie Griffiths moving across to openside flanker. Skipper Lewis Evans is named at number eight.

Form: Zebre doubled their tally of victories this season with their 25-22 win at home to Connacht on Saturday in a rearranged Round 3 fixture. Zebre have not won back-to-back matches in the PRO12 since Christmas 2015. Newport Gwent Dragons only victory in the last nine rounds of PRO12 was 26-8 over Treviso at Rodney Parade in Round 13. The Welshmen have not won away from home in the Championship since a visit to Treviso in March 2015. The last five fixtures between the two side have all been won by the home team on the day, whilst the Dragons only previous victory in Parma was by a single point on their first ever visit in February 2013. 

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Serafin Bordoli

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Lewis Evans (c), 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Nic Cudd, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Dorian Jones, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Tom Prydie

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 14:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Ospreys v Leinster

Dan Biggar will play his 200th game for the Ospreys in their fixture against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium.

He starts alongside Wales international team-mate and captain Rhys Webb, who will run out for his 100th PRO12 fixture.

There are a number of changes from the Leinster XV that accounted for Wasps in the quarter-final of the Champions Cup last week but only one – Adam Byrne – is injury enforced.

There are also a number of positional changes in the backline with captain Isa Nacewa moving to full-back from the left wing, with Fergus McFadden starting for only the fifth time this season on the left and Rory O'Loughlin coming in on the right wing.

Robbie Henshaw starts again at 12 with Zane Kirchner outside him.

There is a new half-back combination with Jamison Gibson-Park coming in at scrum-half, partnered by Joey Carbery at 10. Having started at full-back for the last four games, it's his first start at fly-half since the Edinburgh game in the RDS in February.

There are no changes at loose and tighthead with Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong again starting but having made a successful comeback for Leinster 'A' last weekend against Ulster Ravens, Seán Cronin makes his first senior start since injuring his hamstring off the bench against Zebre in January.

In the second row Devin Toner continues at lock but is partnered this week by Mick Kearney.

Finally there are two changes in the back row with only Jack Conan retained at number eight, with fit again Rhys Ruddock back at blindside and Josh van der Flier at openside flanker.

Form: Ospreys have lost two of their last four matches in the PRO12, at home to Munster in Round 15 and away at Treviso in Round 18. Ospreys have lost only one of their last twelve matches in all competitions at Liberty Stadium: 23-25 to Munster on 18 February. Leinster are unbeaten in all nine first team games they have played in 2017, their most recent reversal being on a visit to Munster in the PRO12 on December 26. The Leinstermen have been defeated just once in their last nine fixtures against Welsh regions – on their visit to Scarlets in Round 9. Leinster's only defeat to Ospreys since November 2012 was 19-25 at Liberty Stadium in the PRO12 in April 2014. 

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dan Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb (c), 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Tyler Ardron, 21 Sam Underhill, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Jonathan Spratt

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (c), 14 Rory O'Loughlin, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Dave Kearney

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Rob Price (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Munster v Glasgow Warriors

Munster boss Rassie Erasmus has rung the changes for their PRO12 clash at home to Glasgow Warriors at Irish Independent Park in Cork.

In total 10 changes are made to the side that defeated Toulouse with Erasmus also including no less than six internationals on a strong bench.

James Cronin – who makes his 80th appearance in red – Rhys Marshall and Stephen Archer make up a new front row with Dave O’Callaghan coming in to join captain Billy Holland in the second row.

Jean Deysel is set to make his first appearance for the province having been named in a new look back row.  The South African is joined by number eight Jack O’Donoghue and the academy’s Conor Oliver whose rich form in the Munster A jersey sees him start at openside.

Duncan Williams and current PRO12 Golden Boot leader, Tyler Bleyendaal, continue at half-back, while in the midfield, the return of Francis Saili sees him start alongside Jaco Taute for the first time.

In completing the changes, the Championship’s top try scorer to date, Ronan O’Mahony, and fullback Andrew Conway both re-join Darren Sweetnam in the back three.

Meanwhile, Gregor Townsend has named a 23 boasting over 1,500 Glasgow Warriors appearances to face Munster.

Stuart Hogg starts at full-back with Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones either side of him, the latter scoring in last weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens.

Alex Dunbar is joined in the midfield by Nick Grigg, who sits second in the PRO12 stat charts in terms of defenders beaten this season, with 45 in his 12 games so far.  

Finn Russell and Ali Price combine at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

In the front-row Sila Puafisi joins Fraser Brown and Gordon Reid, while Brian Alainu’uese and captain Jonny Gray pack down behind them.

All three loose forwards from Allianz Park retain their places, with Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson and Adam Ashe completing the starting XV.

Form: Munster's only defeat in the last twelve rounds of the PRO12 was 21-13 at home to Scarlets at Thomond Park in February. Munster have lost just twice in Cork since early 2013 – to Ospreys in February 2016 and to the Blues in September. Munster have won all five matches they have played against Scottish opponents this season. Glasgow Warriors have won their last two PRO12 matches, both with maximum points, at Scotstoun against Dragons and Connacht. The Warriors have not won away from home in the Championship since visiting Treviso on December 31, whilst the Scotsmen's only victory over an Irish province in Ireland since the 2015 PRO12 Final was against Connacht in Galway in Round 1 this season. The two sides have met three times this season in all tournaments with Munster victorious on each occasion. Glasgow's only previous victory in Cork was 21-18 in May 2008. 

The teams:

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Dave O’Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Simon Zebo

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (c), 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Rory Hughes

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Irish Independent Park
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)

Scarlets v Treviso

Scarlets captain Ken Owens will lead his side to the all-important clash with Treviso as the race for the top four continues.

Owens is named alongside fellow Welsh internationals Rob Evans and Samson Lee in the front row. He will also make his 200th appearance for the region.

Jake Ball and John Barclay also make a return to the starting XV with the Scarlets looking to continue where they left off with a bonus point victory over Edinburgh a fortnight ago. Tadhg Beirne, Aaron Shingler and James Davies retain their places in the pack.

DTH van der Merwe and Scott Williams make a return to the backline with Dan Jones named at fly-half.

Treviso have named David Odiete at full-back while on the wings are Angelo Esposito and Luca Sperandio. Tommaso Benvenuti and Alberto Sgarbi will be the midfield combination.

The half-backs are Tito Tebaldi at scrum-half and Ian McKinley at fly-half.

The front row will consist of Federico Zani, Luca Bigi and Tiziano Pasquali while the locks will be Filippo Gerosa and captain Dean Budd.

Finally, the back row sees Francesco Minto, Marco Lazzaroni and Robert Barbieri completing the XV chosen by boss Kieran Crowley. 

Form: Scarlets have lost just one of their last seven PRO12 encounters: 9-45 to Leinster in Dublin in Round 17. The Welshmen have not lost at Parc y Scarlets in the Championship since Munster won there in Round 1. Benetton Rugby Treviso ended a six game losing streak in the PRO12 with their 13-5 victory at home to Ospreys in Round 18. The Italians have not won back-to-back matches in the Championship since February 2016. Scarlets have won their last seven matches against Treviso since their 17-41 defeat at home to the Italians in Round 22 of the 2012/13 season. 

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Liam Williams

Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Dean Budd (c), 4 Filippo Gerosa, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Alberto Porolli, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Teofilo Paulo, 21 Abraham Steyn, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Luke McLean

Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Jonathan Hardy (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)