Connacht v Ulster, the Sportsground, kick-off: 7.35pm
Ulster have won nine in a row against their western neighbours since losing 26-21 in Galway five seasons ago. The champions, hit by injuries to several key players including hooker Tom McCartney, make changes fore and aft. Ulster, with injuries of their own to Charles Piutau, among others, give Tommy Bowe his first start of the campaign.
Edinburgh v Benetton Treviso, BT Murrayfield, kick-off: 7.35pm
Treviso haven’t won a Guinness PRO12 match outside Italy since thrashing Scarlets 41-17 in May 2013 although they have won in Scotland. Five Kris Burton goals proved too much for Glasgow in September 2011. Edinburgh, beaten last time out at BT Murrayfield by Leinster, will expect to make the most of home comforts after punishing journeys to Munster and Connacht.
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues, Liberty Stadium, kick-off: 7.35pm
The first Welsh derby of the campaign ought to guarantee Ospreys their first five-figure attendance. It starts with two notable absentees – Wales captain Sam Warburton from the Blues back row following surgery to a fractured cheekbone, Dan Biggar from Ospreys’ starting XV. Sam Davies gets the nod with his Test team-mate on the bench.
Leinster v Munster, Aviva Stadium, kick-off: 2.05pm
Munster broke their Dublin bogy two years ago, a 34-23 win made all the more commendable because they did it in spite of four yellow cards. They went mighty close last April, losing 16-13 to a Johnny Sexton penalty. Each team has four wins out of five, pointing to another encounter of the closest kind before another bumper crowd.
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, kick-off: 5.05pm
Warriors racked up 17 tries in thumping home and away wins over Zebre last April, among them a hat-trick for Leone Nakawara. The Italians, relieved that the Fijian lock is safely out of harm’s way at Racing 92, gave Cardiff Blues a serious run for their money last time out at home.
Scarlets v Newport Gwent Dragons, Parc y Scarlets, kick-off: 7.35pm
The Dragons won more losing bonus points last season (10) than anyone else in the competition but they haven’t won away from Newport in the PRO12 for two-and-a-half years. Scarlets took a maximum ten points from their East Wales’ rivals last term in between losing at home to the other Welsh regions – Ospreys on Boxing Day (26-27) and the Blues (22-28) the week after Easter.