With the announcement last week confirming the structure of European competition next season, the RaboDirect PRO12 round 20 games over the Easter weekend take on even more significance.
Pick of the round must be the Good Friday fixture at Scotstoun Stadium between Glasgow Warriors and fellow play-off chasers Ulster.
Glasgow have already secured the automatic Scottish European Rugby Champions Cup qualification spot, but with a game in hand over their nearest rivals, can still claim a RaboDirect PRO12 home play-off berth.
Winning this fixture is vital for either team’s chances of securing home advantage at the semi-final stage.
Also on Good Friday Leinster welcome Benetton Treviso to the RDS. Treviso have pulled out an eight-point lead over Zebre in the table. A victory in Dublin – dependent upon Zebre’s result – could see them claim the Italian place in Europe next season.
Leinster, on the other hand, are looking to seal not only top seeding in the PRO12 play-offs, but also the guaranteed spot for Irish participation in the premier European competition for 2014/15.
The other two provinces, Connacht and Munster, meet at the Sportsground on Saturday with the visitors the third Irish team in the battle for both the PRO12 play-offs and guaranteed European qualification.
Over in Italy the same day Zebre know this is a ‘must win’ game if they are to stand any chance of overtaking Treviso for the Italian European Rugby Champions Cup place.
Their opponents Edinburgh, who are 10 points behind the Scarlets and with a game in hand over their rivals, can still claim one of the three European places awarded to the PRO12 teams on merit.
On Easter Sunday, there will be some added spice for the ‘Judgement Day’ double header at the Millennium Stadium.
The Ospreys are the only Welsh region still in with a chance of reaching the PRO12 play-offs, but are four points off the top four. With their nearest rivals Glasgow having a game in hand, it is going to be a tough task.
Also up for grabs is the automatic Welsh place in Europe and possibly a second spot in next season’s competition based on meritocracy.
The Ospreys and Scarlets currently hold these positions, but Cardiff Blues are not out of the equation yet.
Wth the vagaries of the fixtures list giving them two games against the Scarlets and another against Connacht before the end of the season, there is still every chance that the Blues could claim a top tier place in Europe next season.
RABODIRECT PRO12 – ROUND 20 FIXTURES:
Friday, April 18 –
LEINSTER (1st) v Benetton Treviso (11th), the RDS, 5pm (live TG4/deferred coverage Sport Mediaset)
Glasgow Warriors (4th) v ULSTER (2nd), Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)
Saturday, April 19 –
CONNACHT (8th) v MUNSTER (3rd), the Sportsground, 6.15pm (live RTÉ Two)
Zebre (12th) v Edinburgh (7th), Stadio XXV Aprile, 3.30pm local time (live Sport Mediaset/BBC ALBA)
Sunday, April 20 –
Cardiff Blues (9th) v Scarlets (6th), Millennium Stadium, 2pm (live BBC 2 Wales)
Newport Gwent Dragons (10th) v Ospreys (5th), Millennium Stadium, 4.45pm (live S4C)