With just six complete rounds of the RaboDirect PRO12 left, the race for the play-off positions is well and truly on with three of the Irish sides currently placed in the top five.
Leinster may be forging ahead with an 11-point lead at the top of the table, but the fight for the second home play-off spot is intense with six of the chasing pack still in with a realistic chance of landing a coveted home tie.
The match of round 17 must be the fourth-placed Glasgow Warriors’ trip to the Ospreys on Friday night. Any slip-up by the visitors could, other results permitting, see them drop out of the play-pff zone completely, while a victory would see them snapping at the heels of their rivals.
Two other contenders for a top four finish are also in action on Friday, Ulster and the Scarlets. Both teams are at home facing opposition from the lower reaches of the table, but the Llanelli outfit will be up against a Connacht side that will be brimming with confidence after last weekend’s home win over Edinburgh.
Cardiff Blues and Munster, the two sides in the top half of the table each with a game still in hand, both play on Saturday, the Blues travelling to Italy and Munster to Wales.
They then have a chance to cash in on that game in hand as both will play their rearranged fixtures before round 18.
The top two teams have remained in the same position since round 10, while the same four teams have been in the play-off zone since round 8, with just Munster and Glasgow Warriors swapping third and fourth positions over the weeks.
RABODIRECT PRO12 – ROUND 17 FIXTURES:
Friday, March 2 –
Aironi Rugby v LEINSTER, Stadio Zaffanella, 7pm local time/6pm Irish time (live RAI Sport 2)
ULSTER v Edinburgh, Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors, Liberty Stadium, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Wales/BBC ALBA)
Scarlets v CONNACHT, Parc y Scarlets, 7.30pm
Saturday, March 3 –
Benetton Treviso v Cardiff Blues, Stadio di Monigo, 4.30pm local time (live RAI Sport 2)
Newport Gwent Dragons v MUNSTER, Rodney Parade, 6.30pm (live TG4/S4C)