With the introduction this season of a clause requiring games affecting qualification for a Magners League play-off place to kick off at the same time, the two fixtures involving the three teams still vying for that fourth spot – the Cardiff Blues, Edinburgh and Munster – will be played simultaneously and wrap up the final weekend of the league stage of the competition.
Two of those teams face each other – Cardiff Blues v Muster – in what could be a winner-takes-all scenario, although the Blues will have to look over their shoulder to make sure the result does not allow Edinburgh to sneak in under the radar.
Edinburgh themselves need a bonus point win at the RDS, and hope that other results go their way, to stand any chance of securing fourth place, while one match point will give Leinster the luxury of a home semi-final tie.
Round 18 opens on Friday night with two of the top four teams in action in Wales – the second-placed Ospreys hosting the Newport Gwent Dragons, and Glasgow Warriors, currently lying third in the table, visiting the Scarlets.
With just one match point separating them, any slip-up by either team could give the other the opportunity of claiming home advantage in the Magners League semi-finals.
Also on Friday, Ulster face Connacht at Ravenhill, and only an unprecedented scoreline would give Connacht any mathematical chance of overtaking their provincial rivals in the table.
This round brings to a conclusion the league stage of this season’s competition, and the top four teams will go forward to the inaugural Magners League semi-finals (May 14-15).
MAGNERS LEAGUE – ROUND 18 FIXTURES:
Friday, May 7 –
Ospreys v Newport Gwent Dragons, Liberty Stadium, 7.05pm (live Setanta Sports 1/BBC Wales)
Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors, Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm
ULSTER v CONNACHT, Ravenhill, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Sunday, May 9 –
Cardiff Blues v MUNSTER, Cardiff City Stadium, 6.15pm (live Setanta Sports 1/S4C)
LEINSTER v Edinburgh, the RDS, 6.15pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)