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GUINNESS PRO12: Round 18 Preview

GUINNESS PRO12: Round 18 Preview

After a scintillating finish to the RBS 6 Nations Championship, there is an Irish-Scottish flavour again in this round of Guinness PRO12 games with a repeat of a final and semi-final from the last two seasons, Leinster v Glasgow Warriors.

Unusually this time it is hosts Leinster who are battling for the points to make the play-offs. Their round 18 visitors, Glasgow Warriors, are currently top of the table – four points clear of their nearest opponents.
Also on Friday evening second-placed Ulster face Cardiff Blues. Their form this season must favour the hosts and every point counts as they try to secure home advantage in the play-offs, as Munster are tied with their provincial rivals on league points.
Munster themselves are in action on Saturday, welcoming Connacht to Thomond Park for a much-anticipated interprovincial derby. Although the visitors’ record in the province is not good, they are fighting for an automatic place in next season’s European Champions Cup, so this will be a tough game to call.  
The Scarlets and Edinburgh, the other two teams realistically challenging Connacht for a place in Europe’s top tier next season, also face each other on Saturday.

Neither of them have been in the top half of the table since early in the season, but could find themselves elevated if other results go their way. This game is the fourth match to trial the HawkEye system with the help of Sky Sports.
It is a straightforward head-to-head for Italian European qualification, and both their teams face Welsh opposition this weekend. Benetton Treviso have the advantage of a home game against the Newport Gwent Dragons, while Zebre face a trip to the fourth-placed Ospreys who themselves need to garner as many points as possible to claim a place in the PRO12 play-offs.
With only five rounds of the PRO12 regular season left, the run-in will be crucial. There are just over 1,000 tickets left for general sale to the PRO12 final at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday, May 30.

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Friday, March 27 –

LEINSTER (5th) v Glasgow Warriors (1st), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC 2 Scotland)

ULSTER (2nd) v Cardiff Blues (9th), Kingspan Stadium, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC 2 Wales/highlights TG4)

Saturday, March 28 –

Scarlets (7th) v Edinburgh (8th), Parc y Scarlets, 2.40pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD)

MUNSTER (3rd) v CONNACHT (6th), Thomond Park, 5.15pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/highlights TG4)

Ospreys (4th) v Zebre (12th), Liberty Stadium, 7.15pm (live S4C/deferred coverage Nuvolari TV)

Benetton Treviso (11th) v Newport Gwent Dragons (10th), Stadio di Monigo, 8.30pm local time (live Nuvolari TV)