The May Day weekend should provide some of the most intense scrutiny of the RaboDirect PRO12 table during the season, with almost every team still having something to play for at the start of round 21.
The round’s opening fixture between Zebre and the Ospreys could go a long way to answering some of the questions.
A loss for hosts Zebre would put Benetton Treviso in the box seat for the Italian spot in next season’s European competition, while a loss for the Welsh region, without picking up any league points, would take away their mathematical chances of making the play-offs.
Bonus point wins are the big prize in the interprovincial derby between Ulster and table toppers Leinster at Ravenhill on Friday night.
A bonus point win for the Ulstermen would secure their place in the play-offs regardless of the Ospreys result, while a maximum pointer for Leinster would gain them home advantage having already qualified for the last-four.
Also on Friday the Scarlets have the chance to secure European rugby next season, needing just two points from their match against the Newport Gwent Dragons to deny Cardiff Blues or Edinburgh any mathematical chance of beating them to sixth place.
Glasgow’s bonus point victory over Edinburgh in their rearranged fixture last weekend lifted the Warriors into second spot. They have racked up the most wins – 16 – in the competition so far this season.
The high-flying Scots will no doubt be looking for maximum points in Italy to support their push for a home play-off berth. Depending on the results of the May Day fixture, their hosts Treviso will also know exactly what they have to do in order to claim the Italian spot in Europe next season.
Munster fans will have their calculators at the ready as they watch their three main competitors for the play-offs battle it out on Friday night before Rob Penney’s men take on Edinburgh the following day.
Any points that Munster can take out of this encounter reduces the pressure on their last fixture, which will be at home to provincial rivals Ulster.
Also on Saturday evening, Connacht have their final home outing of the season as they entertain Cardiff. The westerners still have a shot at finishing seventh overall, and could move above the Blues into eighth place with a victory in Galway.
One of the most exciting penultimate rounds of recent years could set up a grandstand finish for the last round of the regular season.
RABODIRECT PRO12 – ROUND 21 FIXTURES:
Thursday, May 1 –
Zebre (12th) v Ospreys (5th), Stadio XXV Aprile, 6pm local time (live S4C/Sport Mediaset)
Friday, May 2 –
Benetton Treviso (11th) v Glasgow Warriors (2nd), Stadio di Monigo, 8pm local time (live BBC ALBA/Sport Mediaset)
Scarlets (6th) v Newport Gwent Dragons (10th), Parc y Scarlets, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Wales)
ULSTER (4th) v LEINSTER (1st), Ravenhill, 7.30pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/RTÉ Two)
Saturday, May 3 –
CONNACHT (9th) v Cardiff Blues (8th), the Sportsground, 5pm
Edinburgh (7th) v MUNSTER (3rd), Meggetland, 5pm (live TG4/BBC ALBA)