Leinster v Benetton Treviso, RDS Arena, kick-off: 7.35pm
Over the course of their last five visits to Dublin on Guinness PRO12 business, the Italians have shipped 204 points and 27 tries. Do not be fooled by the figures. The serial European trophy winners have not had it all their own way. As recently as May last year, Treviso restricted them to one try, from Jamie Heaslip and Leinster just managed to reach double figures, winning 10-0.
Ospreys v Zebre, Liberty Stadium, kick-off: 7.35pm
Anyone banking on Ospreys getting off to a five-point flier would do well to recall New Year 2013 and a Friday night in Swansea. Zebre led 8-6 at half-time thanks largely to Alberto Chillon’s unconverted try before Dan Biggar dug the then-champions out of a hole with a try and four goals. Tito Tebaldi’s converted try cut gap to a single point, leaving the Welsh region to cling on in the face of a late assault.
Ulster v Newport Gwent Dragons, Kingspan Stadium, kick-off: 7.35pm
While Ulster will demand nothing less than a sixth straight win over the Dragons, they will be all too aware of what happened when the same opposition lined up in Belfast last February. Against all the odds, the Dragons reached half-time ten points clear and still had their noses in front at 15-14 until the 78th minute when Paddy Jackson nailed the decisive penalty.
Scarlets v Munster, Parc y Scarlets, kick-off: 3pm
Stand by for another photo-finish. No fixture has been closer over the last couple of years than this one. Two seasons ago Munster won 3-1 on tries but had to settle for a 25-25 draw. Last season Scarlets squeezed home 25-22, in no small way due to Steven Shingler’s five penalties. What happens this time is anyone’s guess.
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors, Sportsground, kick-off: 5.15pm.
The Big One – the champions against the immediate past champions and a serious test of Galway as a fortress. In 15 matches there last season against opponents from Wales, Scotland, Italy, France, England, Russia and Ireland, Connacht won all but one – Ulster on Boxing Day. As for the Warriors, they’ve lost five in a row in Ireland, including two in three weeks out west last May.
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh, BT Sport Arms Park, kick-off: 7.35pm
It’s four years, almost to the day, since Edinburgh last won in Cardiff. A Tim Visser strike followed by a penalty try and four goals from Greig Laidlaw edged them home 21-19. The Blues have won all three subsequent home fixtures and Alex Cuthbert’s presence on the wing will hardly ease Scottish anxiety. He hit Edinburgh with a hat-trick of tries at the end of his PRO12 debut season in April 2012.
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