Munster v Cardiff Blues
When: Tonight, 19.05.
Where to watch: (If not Thomond) RTE 2.
The Story so far: The southern province eventually squeezed out a winning bonus point on their trip to Italy last week. That result keeps them nicely positioned in the play-off places.
Nobody is likely to displace Leinster at the top, but Tony McGahan would surely take a repeat of last season’s final as a decent way to bow out.
The Munster coach has taken up a role with the Wallabies and will make a return to his native country after eight years coaching abroad.
The Blues will be looking to take advantage of some of the uncertainty surrounding the province. They lie in fifth place, just four points behind Munster.
Team news: David Wallace (pictured) is back in training but still some way from being fit enough for a match. Last week McGahan was able to name some second-line Irish internationals in his line-up. This week, of course, is very different with Italy arriving in the Aviva Stadium.
Mick O’Driscoll captains the side alongside Billy Holland in the second row. Ian Keatley returns to fill the jersey left by Ronan O’Gara. The same goes for Tommy O’Donnell who deputises for Peter O’Mahoney.
Felix Jones will complete his recovery from the knee injury which ended his World Cup ambitions. His starting place comes sooner than expected as Denis Hurley has been retained by Declan Kidney as cover.
Munster: F Jones; J Murphy, D Barnes, L Mafi, S Zebo; I Keatley, T O’Leary: M Horan, D Varley, BJ Botha; B Holland, M O’Driscoll (capt); Dave O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Fogarty, W du Preez, S Archer, D Foley, P Butler, D Williams, S Deasy, L O’Dea.
Cardiff Blues: C Czekaj; R Mustoe, G Evans, G Henson, T James; D Parks, R Rees: J Yapp, R Tyrell, S Andrew; C Hill, P Tito (capt.); M Paterson, M Williams, M Molitika.
Replacements: T R Thomas, N Trevitt, S Hobbs, M Cook, T Young, L Jones, C Sweeney, B Blair.
Ulster v Ospreys
When: Tonight, 19.05.
Where to watch: (If not Ravenhill) BBC 2 NI.
The Story so far: Ulster fell to the Blues last week, but will be far more comfortable under those soothing Friday night lights in east Belfast.
Like Munster, the northern Province is operating under an out-going coach. Though Ulster’s is a more disruptive situation as Brian McLaughlin is not moving on willingly to bigger and better things.
The Ospreys sit second and have won all four of their Pro12 games this year, but failed to get a bonus point at home to Aironi last weekend.
Team news: Paul Marshall will make a rare start at scrum-half. Marshall regularly finishes games, but comes in to start on this occasion.
Fly-half Ian Hunphreys drops to the bench allowing Ruan Pienaar to take up the spot at number 10. Pedrie Wannenburg comes back into the front line after a foot injury. Willie Faloon and Chris Henry will flank the South African as Robbie Diack makes way.
The Welsh outfit are hit by 16 absentees to Wales, Ireland and Scotland under 20′s. A further seven are ruled out through injury and the lack of options is showing on the bench as Jonathan Thomas is provisionally named on the bench.
The forward is still recovering from a back injury and a late decision will be made regarding his availability. Lloyd Peers is ready to take up the number 19 jersey should Thomas fail to make it.
Ulster: S Terblanche; C Gilroy, N Spence, P Wallace, I Whitten; R Pienaar, P Marshall: P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Afoa, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, C Henry (capt), W Faloon, P Wannenburg.
Replacements: N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, T Barker, R Diack, I Humphreys, S Danielli, A D’Arcy
Ospreys: R Fussell; H Dirkson, A Bishop, S Watermeyer, E Walker; D BIggar, K Fotouali’i: D James, S Baldwin, J Rees; I Gough, J King; T Smith (capt.) S Lewis, J Bearman.
Replacements: M Davies, R Bevington, W Taylor, J Thomas (or L Peers) G Stowers, R Webb, M Morgan, A Beck.
Connacht v Edinburgh
When: Tonight, 19.30
Where to watch: Not on the box.
The Story so far: Michael Bradley returns to his old stomping ground with an Edinburgh side who have a touch of the Jekyll and Hyde about them. On the one hand, they are in the Heineken Cup quarter finals, but in the Pr012, they lie ninth; just three points above Connacht.
The western province have not managed a league win since September. A draw last time out was at least a step in the right direction.
Team news: Denis Buckley is in line for a first competitive start as Brett Wilkinson could make a late return from the Irish camp. The 22-year-old has made five appearances from the bench this season.
The only other change is at scrum-half where veteran, Frank Murphy, returns from a groin strain to displace Paul O’Donohoe.
Connacht: G Duffy (capt) F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili, T O’Halloran; N O’Conner, F Murphy: D Buckley, A Flavin, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; J Muldoon, E Grace, G Naoupu.
Replacements: E Reynecke, D Rogers (or B Wilkinson) S Maguire, M Kearney, R Ofisa, P O’Donohoe, M Jarvis, E Griffin.
Edinburgh: C Paterson; T Brown, J Thompson, M Scott, T Visser; G Hunter, C Leck: K Traynor, A kelly, J Gilding; G Gilchrist, S Cox; S McInally, R Grant (capt.) N Talei.
Replacements: A Walker, M Macdonald, U Gamboa, E Lozada, H Watson, A Beck, P Godman, D Fife.
Glasgow Warriors v Leinster
When: Saturday, 18.00
Where to watch: TG4.
The Story so far: Leinster return to Firhill where they won a tight Heineken Cup contest in January. In Celtic league action, however they have not managed to win in Glasgow since 2006 and lost at home to the Warriors in September.
The Scottish currently occupy the fourth play-off place, so Leinster could do Munster and Ulster a bit of a favour should they record their third consecutive win over Sean Lineen’s side.
Team news: Fergus McFadden claimed all of Leinster’s points in the win over Scarlets last week. He won’t be available this time round, his place is likely to be filled by Brendan Macken.
Sean Cronin and Eoin Reddan will also be tied up with matters on Lansdowne Road, but the presence of Isaac Boss and Richardt Strauss isn’t likely to weaken the visitors greatly.
No fresh injury concerns are expected to hamper Joe Schmidt. Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Conway are continuing their rehabilitation.
Glasgow Warriors: TBC