The Guinness PRO12 Semi-Finals kick off this week with Leinster the only returning team from last season’s knock-out stages.
The four-time Championship winners host the first Semi-Final on Friday night when they face Scarlets while Munster Rugby also face Welsh opposition with Ospreys making the trip to Limerick on Saturday.
All four teams have ambitions on reach the Guinness PRO12 Final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 27 with the aim of succeeding Connacht Rugby as champions. Tickets are selling strong and supporters still have time to guarantee their place by visiting www.ticketmaster.ie before the Semi-Finals kick off.
LEINSTER RUGBY v SCARLETS
Friday, May 19, The RDS Arena, KO 7.45pm
Unbeaten in Guinness PRO12 games at their Dublin home since February 2015, Leinster also boast a formidable record of having never lost any of the six Semi-Finals that they have played at the RDS Arena. The Blues set new Championship records this season for the most tries scored by a single team – 91 – and most points -674 – as their attacking play set the bar for others to follow.
However, their opponents, Scarlets, have also lighting up the Championship with their exciting play lethal counter-attacking off stolen ball as they lead the Guinness PRO12 rankings in turnovers. Their 17 wins this season is also a highest-ever total for the region as they plot to be the first away team to win a Semi-Final in the Championship.
Fitness permitting, this game should feature eight players selected for the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand with Leinster calling upon five squad members: Sean O’Brien, Tadhg Furlong, Jack McGrath; Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw while Scarlets include Jon Davies, Liam Williams and Ken Owens.
MUNSTER RUGBY v OSPREYS RUGBY
Saturday, May 20, Thomond Park, KO 6.15pm
Two of the most storied teams in the Championship meet for the third time in the Guinness PRO12 Semi-Finals at Thomond Park with Munster looking to join their opponents Ospreys on a total of four titles. The men in red finished on top of the table after 22 Rounds but despite some unexpected results for Ospreys, they possess plenty of quality in their ranks to spring an upset.
This is another fixture that will provide a showcase for some of the most elite talent in the Guinness PRO12 with seven British & Irish Lions involved between both teams. Munster will look to Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony to set the tone, however, Ospreys will boast the calibre of Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb and Justin Tipuric.
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady, Wayne Falla (both RFU)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 31, Munster won 15, Ospreys won 15 and 1 game drawn.
IN CASE OF A TIE
Extra Time and Place Kicking Competition (Abbreviated Rules)
In the event of a tie at full time in a Guiness PRO12 Semi-Final or the Guinness PRO12 Final then extra-time will be played, consisting of two periods, each of ten minutes. If the score is still tied after extra-time, the Team that has scored the most tries in the match will be deemed the winner. If the Teams are still tied on points and tries at the end of extra-time then the winner will be determined by a Place Kick Competition.
In the event that a Place Kick Competition is required, each Team will nominate three goal kickers who will take six place kicks between them from different positions along the twenty-two metre and ten metre lines. The Team with the most place kicks scored will be the winner. If the Teams are tied at the end of their six kicks, then sudden death will apply.
Only players in the playing area at the final whistle of extra-time may be nominated for the Place Kick Competition. No substituted players or players who have been shown a red card may take part at any time including any player who has received a yellow card and who remains in the sin bin at the time of the final whistle of extra-time.