The battle to reach the Guinness PRO12 final is closing in on the halfway point and already it is impossible to project just who will reach the semi-finals come May.
Munster Rugby go into Round 10 as table toppers – the fourth team to do so this season – but former champions Leinster Rugby and Ospreys Rugby are in hot pursuit.
Entertainment has been the calling card of the Guinness PRO12 this season with the 277 tries scored pointing towards a record-setting campaign, but clubs now will look to their returning international starts to further lift the intensity of their title challenges.
During November 84 players combined for Italy, Ireland, Scotland and South Wales to take wins over all of the 2015 World Cup semi-finalists – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
In addition, 17 rising talents from the Guinness PRO12 won their first caps between all four competing PRO12 nations.
What’s at Stake?
Round 10 is the last weekend of Guinness PRO12 action until the Festive fixtures begin and all 12 clubs are looking to consolidate their positions in the Championship table before returning to European action.
Cardiff Blues and Ulster Rugby will play out an intriguing game at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, where both early title contenders are looking to arrest losing streaks.
Ulster have lost three in a row and have not lost four in succession since 2011, but Blues, too, need to break a run that has seen just one win in five PRO12 fixtures. Ospreys Rugby, unbeaten at Liberty Stadium this season, will be looking to capitalise on an Edinburgh team that has just one road victory to their name in over a year.
Opposing records clash at the RDS, too, where Leinster Rugby have won their last 16 Championship fixtures and come up against a Newport-Gwent Dragons team that has lost on their last 16 away trips.
Connacht Rugby host Benetton Rugby Treviso who are searching for their first win outside of Italy since 2013, meanwhile, Zebre Rugby host surging Scarlets who are looking to make it seven wins in a row.
Friday, December 2: Ospreys Rugby v Edinburgh Rugby (7.35pm); Glasgow Warriors v Munster Rugby (7.35pm).
Saturday, December 3: Connacht Rugby v Benetton Rugby Treviso (3pm); Zebre Rugby v Scarlets (2.05pm local); Cardiff Blues v Ulster Rugby (5.15pm); Leinster Rugby v Newport-Gwent Dragons (7.35pm).
Pick of the Round
Munster Rugby travel to Glasgow Warriors on Friday night as Championship leaders but Gregor Townsend’s team will be keen to get their challenge back on the right track after losses to Scarlets and Ospreys. Munster have a seven-point lead on fifth-placed Warriors but the home team have not lost three in a row since the 2010/11 season and they are sure to be bolstered by the return of some of their Scotland internationals.
It is a precarious fixture for the visitors who could see either Ospreys or Leinster leapfrog them into top spot given that the two sides play at home this weekend.
Munster will look to star performers such as Ronan O’Mahony and Tyler Bleyendaal while captain Peter O’Mahony could factor into selection after his spell on duty with Ireland. Warriors, meanwhile, should have a whole host of talent available to them as they seek to get a foothold back in the top four.
OSPREYS RUGBY v EDINBURGH RUGBY
Friday 2 December, Liberty Stadium, 7:35pm.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU, 65th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Sean Brickell (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (WRU)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)
HEAD TO HEAD - RECENT GUINNESS PRO12 MEETINGS
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Ospreys won 15, Edinburgh won 10 with 1 game drawn.
Did you know?
- Ospreys Rugby only defeat in the last four rounds of the Guinness PRO12 was 0-33 in Munster in round 8.
- Ospreys have won their last four Guinness PRO12 games at Liberty Stadium since Ulster beat them there in round 22 last season.
- Edinburgh Rugby have won just two of their last seven PRO12 fixtures, both at home, to Benetton Treviso and Ulster.
- The Scotsmen’s only victory outside of Scotland in the Championship since September 2015 was by a single point on a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons in March.
- The last eight encounters between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Edinburgh’s most recent success at Liberty Stadium was 32-30 in April 2009.
For more Opta statistics visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/powered-by-opta/
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final