Only two points separate top team Ulster from fourth-placed Irish rivals Leinster in the GUINNESS PRO12 and sixth-placed Munster are just four further back as competition for play-off places intensifies ahead of Round 14.
1. The format and playing aspects of the ("Guinness PRO12") shall be governed by the Guinness PRO12 Rules. In addition, the Guinness PRO12 shall be played under the IRB Laws of the Game and in accordance with the World Rugby Regulations relating to the Game.
2. There shall be twelve Teams ("Teams") participating in the Guinness PRO12 which comprises two Teams from Scotland, four Teams from Wales, four Teams from Ireland and two Teams from Italy.
3.1. The Guinness PRO12 shall consist of a league stage followed by a Play-Off stage.
3.2. In the league stage, each Team shall play every other Team in two matches per season on a home and away basis.
3.3. In all matches in the league stage, four league points shall be awarded for a win and two league points shall be awarded for a draw. One bonus league point shall be awarded to a Team scoring four or more tries and one bonus league point shall be awarded to a Team losing by seven points or less.
3.4. The top four Teams in the league at the end of the season shall qualify for the Play-Offs which shall consist of the Guinness PRO12 Play-Offs and the Guinness PRO12 Final..
3.5. If two or more Teams finish with the same number of league points, their placings will be determined by the following criteria in descending order:
3.6. In the Guinness PRO12 Play-Offs, the Team placed first in the league shall play the Team placed fourth and the Team placed second shall play the Team placed third. The Guinness PRO12 Play-Offs shall be held at the home grounds of the first and second placed Teams respectively. The winners shall meet in the Guinness PRO12 Final.
3.7. The Guinness PRO12 Final is provisionally scheduled to take place on the weekend of 27/28/29 May 2016. Guinness PRO12 will determine the venue for the Final.
3.8. The winner of the Guinness PRO12 for 2014/15 will therefore be the Team that wins the Guinness PRO12 Final.
3.9. In the event of a tie at full time in a Guinness PRO12 Play-Off match or the Guinness PRO12 Final then extra-time will be played, consisting of two periods, each of ten minutes. If the score is still tied after extra-time, the Team that has scored the most tries in the match will be deemed the winner. If the Teams are still tied on points and tries at the end of extra-time then the winner will be determined by a Place Kick Competition.
3.10. In the event that a Place Kick Competition is required, each Team will nominate three goal kickers who will take six place kicks between them from different positions along the twenty-two metre and ten metre lines. The Team with the most place kicks scored will be the winner. If the Teams are tied at the end of their six kicks, then sudden death will apply.
3.11. Only players in the playing area at the final whistle of extra-time may be nominated for the Place Kick Competition. No substituted players or players who have been shown a red card may take part at any time including any player who has received a yellow card and who remains in the sin bin at the time of the final whistle of extra-time.
4.1. All matches will normally kick off between 6pm on Friday and 7.30pm on Sunday of the respective weekends designated by Celtic Rugby.
4.2. On the weekend of the last round of the league stage matches, all of the matches will be played on the same date and all matches will have simultaneous kick-off times..
5.1. No player may represent a Team in the Guinness PRO12 unless he is a registered playing member of that Team, or a permit has been granted for him to play for that Team in the Guinness PRO12.
5.2. Teams will be limited to registering up to 38 players at any one time (a minimum of ten must be suitably trained and experienced front row players ("Front Row Players") who may be eligible to play for the Team in the Guinness PRO12.
5.3. A maximum of two non-European players are permitted in a Team's match squad.
5.4. A Team may play permit players from non-Guinness PRO12 teams within the same Union. A non-European player may not play on permit and a permit player may only play for one Team in the Guinness PRO12 in any one season.
5.5. No player is eligible to play for a Team in the Guinness PRO12 if he transfers or is registered after the 22nd March 2016 during the relevant season (although there is an exception for under 18 players in certain circumstances).
5.6. Each Team must nominate a matchday squad of 23 players, of which six must be Front Row Players, to ensure that on the first occasion a replacement in any front row position is required, the Team can continue to play with contested scrummages.
5.7. If a Front Row Player has to be replaced and his Team cannot provide a replacement or other suitably qualified player from those who started the match or from the nominated replacements to enable the match to continue safely, the match referee will order uncontested scrums. Should this happen, the Team concerned shall not be entitled to replace the player whose departure caused uncontested scrums.
The referees for all matches in the Guinness PRO12 shall be chosen by the Guinness PRO12's Independent Match Officials Commissioner from a panel of referees agreed by the Independent Match Officials Commissioner and the Referee Managers of the Guinness PRO12 Unions.
A Citing Commissioner will be appointed for all matches in the Guinness PRO12. They shall be entitled to cite a player for any acts of foul play that in the opinion of the Citing Commissioner warranted the player being shown a red card, even where such act(s) may have been detected by the referee and/or touch judge(s) and may have been the subject of action taken by them.
8.1. A TMO shall be appointed for any match in the Guinness PRO12 that is being broadcast live.
8.2. The role of the television match official will be as set out in the Laws of the Game and any World Rugby protocol (or similar) relating to television match officials (as varied or supplemented by Celtic Rugby from time to time).
The above sets out a summary of certain provisions of the Guinness PRO12 Rules for information purposes only. As such, these provisions may be not be relied upon and for a full and proper understanding of the provisions and rules of the Guinness PRO12, reference must be made to the Guinness PRO12 Rules in their existing and entire form.
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