With 11 of the 22 rounds of the GUINNESS PRO12 now completed, teams have passed the halfway mark in the leagueand their focus will now be concentrated on the end of season play-offs along with qualification for next season’s European competitions.
Four of the six games in round 12 are the reversal of the Christmas derbies with only the Irish provinces facing new opponents.
Two of the provinces are in action on New Year’s Day when Connacht welcome Munster to the Sportsground.
After a good start to the season, Connacht have been stuck in sixth place for the last five rounds. So. four points from a win could help keep up their challenge of making the play-offs. However, Munster have not lost in Galway since December 2008.
The round starts earlier that day with Cardiff Blues making the short trip to face the Newport Gwent Dragons at a packed Rodney Parade, a win for either side is vital if they are to keep the pressure on the Scarlets ahead of them both in the race for European qualifications.
Glasgow Warriors take a ten-point lead with them for the second leg of the 1872 Cup against Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield in the only game on Friday night. Apart from the trophy, the Warriors will be keen to add the points a win would bring them to maintain their challenge at the top of the table.
A victory for Leinster in their derby clash with Ulster at the RDS on Saturday could see the hosts leapfrog their rivals and return to the top four and a place in the play-off zone for only the second time this season. Ulster, though, are unlikely to give up their top four spot easily.
Benetton Treviso recorded their first victory of the season over Zebre in Parma. If they were to do the double over their fellow countrymen in the game at Treviso on Saturday, they would climb above them in the table – that is essential if they are to claim the place up for grabs in next season’s European Champions Cup.
Meanwhile, current league leaders, the Ospreys, have to wait until the final match of the round – also on Saturday – to see if they can maintain their position at the top of the table, although their hosts, the Scarlets, will make that as difficult as possible for their local rivals if they hope to keep in touch with the top four themselves.
GUINNESS PRO12 – ROUND 12 FIXTURES:
Thursday, January 1 –
Newport Gwent Dragons (10th) v Cardiff Blues (9th), Rodney Parade, 2.05pm (live BBC 2 Wales)
CONNACHT (6th) v MUNSTER (3rd), the Sportsground, 5pm (live TG4)
Friday, January 2 –
Edinburgh (8th) v Glasgow Warriors (2nd), BT Murrayfield, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Scotland)
Saturday, January 3 –
LEINSTER (5th) v ULSTER (4th), the RDS, 2.40pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)
Benetton Treviso (12th) v Zebre (11th), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time (live Nuvolari TV)
Scarlets (7th) v Ospreys (1st), Parc y Scarlets, 5.05pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/S4C)