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Pro12 Cheat Sheet: Your guide to this weekend’s rugby action

It’s the last round of league games before the Heineken Cup clicks back into gear.

Connacht v Edinburgh

When: Today 5.0 pm.

Where can I watch? Unfortunately, no live coverage, but we’re sure RTE or TG4 will hook you up with highlights this same evening.

The Story so far. Just three points separates Michael Bradley’s current employers from his former. Yet Edinburgh have failed to take a point from just two league outings this season after running up high (yet losing) scores against Scarlets, Ulster and Treviso.

Last week’s home victory over the Ospreys will have been a welcome four points, but away from Murrayfield they haven’t managed a victory since travelling to Cardiff on the second week of the season.

Connacht have also won home and away, but only against Italian opposition. Eric Elwood will be eager to form the making s of a winning run after defeating Treviso last time out in the Sportsground.

Tiernan O’Halloran breaks a tackle against the Dragons. ©INPHO/Huw Evans

Team news: The international talent has returned to Connacht, but we will not see them this week. Mike McCarthy struggled with a back injury this week and he is omitted from the squad.

An unchanged backline means another vote of confidence for Robbie Henshaw as Fetu’u Vainikolo is named on the bench after playing a central role (albeit on the wing) to Tonga’s impressive November.

Prop Ronan Loughney had a reduced training schedule this week, but he has escaped the growing band of 1o injured westerners, which includes McCarthy, John Muldoon, George Naoupu and Eoin Griffin.

The absence of Muldoon and McCarthy means Andrew Browne is bumped into the second row with Johnny O’Connor and Willie Faloon flanking Eoin McKeon.

Bradley has back-rowers Netani Talei and Ross Rennie among his casualties, while Ross Ford remains out with a shoulder complaint. Ford’s place is retained by Andy Titterrell. Roddy Grant and Stuart McInally fill in the back-row alongside blindside David Denton.

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, G Duffy (capt); D Parks, K Marmion: B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, R Loughney; M Kearney, A Browne; J O’Connor, W Faloon, E McKeon.

Replacements: A Flavin, D Buckley, JP Cooney, D Qualter, D Gannon, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, F Vainikolo.

Edinburgh: G Tonks; T Brown, N de Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw (capt.), R Rees: A Jacobsen, A Titterrell, W Nel; P Parker, S Cox; D Denton, R Grant, S McInally.

Replacements:  A Walker, J Yapp, L  Niven, R McAlpine, I van der Westhuizen, C Leck, G Hunter, D Fife

Leinster v Zebre

When: Saturday 6.0 pm.

Where can I watch? RTE 2

The Story so far. You all know Zebre by now, right? Bottom of the table whipping boys with four points (three losing and one for tries) to their name. After two consecutive home games, they are at the home of the European champions. A side desperate to force their way into a rhythm.

This will be Leinster’s first home fixture since the demolition job done on Cardiff in October. Despite only managing one try, one win and a total of 16 points from their two recent Pro12 trips; Joe Schmidt has named a side that will rack up the points.

Team news: Behind the first appearance in blue by Michael Bent, Gordon D’Arcy will line out in the number 13 jersey - something of a throwback for now-seasoned inside centre. D’Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Isa Nacewa, Fergus McFadden, and Kevin McLaughlin are all probable starters in France and will be allowed run riot in the RDS as preparation.

Leinster: I Nacewa; A Conway, G D’Arcy, A Goodman, F McFadden; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Bent; L Cullen (capt), D Browne; K McLaughlin, R Ruddock, S O’Brien.Replacements:A Dundon, C Healy, M Ross, T Denton, J Murphy, I Boss, I Madigan, F Carr.

Zebre: R Trevisan, L Sarto, G Garcia (capt), M Pratichetti, S Sinoti; D Halangahu, T Tepaldi. M Aguero, C Festuccia, D Ryan; Q Geldenhuys, J Sole; N Cattina, M Bergamasco, F Cristiano.

Replacements: D Giazzon, A De Marchi, C Fazzari, E Caffini, N Belardo, A Chillon, D Odiete, P Buso.

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Munster v Glasgow Warriors

When: Saturday 7.45 pm

Where can I watch? TG4

The Story so far. Leinster’s uninspiring win in Scotstoun last week ended the Warriors’ six-game winning streak in the league. It’s form which has put them third in the table, five points behind Scarlets and four clear of Ireland’s southern province.

Munster’s 13-6 reversal to the Scarlets last week was their first home defeat of the season and their first in Cork since 2008. Still, the torrid conditions gave mitigating circumstances to that statistic and Rob Penney will hope the harder ground and the whiff of Saracens will give the extra impetus needed to draw level with Glasgow.

Team news: Both sides will welcome back a host of internationals with Ali Kellock, Stuart Hogg and John Barclay included in the visitors ranks.  Gregor Townsend is without Chris Cusiter and Chris Fusaro due to injury, but is able to welcome Duncan Weir back for a duel with Ronan O’Gara.

ROG is one of six players included who played a role in Ireland’s win over Argentina last Saturday. After gaining international experience at fullback, Simon Zebo is back in his preferred position on the left wing with James Downey’s inclusion giving some respite to Casey Laulala.

CJ Stander makes his first start for the province in a pack anchored by the returning James Coughlan.

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett (capt) K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, D Williams: D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.

Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, P Stringer, I Keatley, C Laulala.

Glasgow: P Murchie; S Lamont, S Hogg, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, H Pyrgos: R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack; T Swinson, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson.

Replacements: P MacArthur, M Low, G Reid, J Strauss, J Eddie, N Matawalu, S Wight, B McGuigan.

Llanelli Scarlets v Ulster

When: Sunday 4.0 pm

Where can I watch? Take your pick from RTE 2, S4C and BBC 2 NI.

The Story so far. It’s difficult to find fault with these sides in the league. The Scarlets are six points behind the table-topping Ulster side chasing their 12th win from 12 this season.

The Welsh outfit have lost four this season, but two of them came in the Heineken Cup to Clermont and Leinster, hot on the heels of a nightmare week in the league where they fell to Ospreys and Treviso.  Since then, though, they have won in Edinburgh and Cork.

Team news: Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has been able to steady the ship with the inclusion of internationals; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Iain Henderson and captain Johann Muller returning from a hand injury.

Rory Best also comes back into the side on the replacements bench alongside Tommy Bowe. With a pivotal fortnight ahead in Europe, Nick Williams, Chris Henry,  Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne have all been rested for the trip to Wales.

Scarlets on the other hand, still have a raft of players involved with Wales in their final Test of the season at home to Australia tomorrow.

Llanelli Scarlets: D Newton; K Phillips, G Maule, G Owen, A Fenby; A Thomas, G Davies: P John, E Phillips, J Adriaanse; J Snyman, R Kelly; G Earle, J Edwards (capt), K Murphy.

Replacements: K Myhill, S Hopkins, D Manu, T Vallejos, C Price, A Davies, A Warren, N Reynolds.

Ulster: P Nelson; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, P Marshall. C Black, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), N McComb, I Henderson, R Diack, R Wilson.

Replacements: R Best, T Court, R Lutton, D Tuohy, M McComish, M Heaney, N O’Connor, T Bowe.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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