Cardiff Blues v Ulster
When: Friday, 19.05
Where to watch: BBC NI
The story so far: Ulster got the international period show on the road in fine style last week with a bonus point win over the Dragons.
However, a trip to the Cardiff Arms Park wil require a sharp upturn in performance.
The Dragons cannot buy a win away from home and dominated many areas of Ravenhill, only to be picked apart by four clinical finishes.
The Blues, despite the absence of Munster-bound Casey Laulala, will not be so blunt in attack. Only Ulster’s winning bonus point currently separates the sides in fifth and sixth place.
Team news: With the scheduled week off in the Six Nations, the provinces are gratefully accepting the return of some of their international contingent. Those in need of game time anyway.
The headline grabbers are the hosts, who name Gavin Henson in the centre outside of Dan Parks.
Ulster coach Brian McLoughlin will be pleased to have Tom court back at the coalface and he has dropped Adam D’Arcy from last week’s winning side to make way for Paddy Wallace. Ian Whitten moves to the wing in the re-shuffle.
Cardiff Blues: B Blair, R Mustoe, G Evans, G Henson, T James; D Parks, L Williams: J Yapp, R Tyrell, S Andrews; C Hill (capt) P Tito, M Paterson, J Navidi, X Rush.
Replacements: T R Thomas, N Trevitt, R Harford, M Molitika, M Williams, R Rees, C Sweeney, C Czekaj.
Ulster: S Terbalnche, C Gilroy, N Spence, P Wallace, I Whitten; I Humphreys, R Pienaar: T Court, N Brady, J Afoa; L Stevenson, D Tuohy; C Henry (capt) W Faloon, R Diack.
Replacement: A Kyriacou, P McAllister, A Macklin, T barker, M McComish, P Marshall, S Danielli, A D’Arcy.
Leinster v Scarlets
When: Friday 19.35
Where to watch: (If not the RDS) TG4.
The story so far: There is just no stopping Joe Schmidt’s side. As long as they are at home, the exciting young boys in blue just keep on running the ball and scoring tries. Of course, they are winning away from home too – all in all, it’s now 11 wins on the trot.
Having old heads like Isa Nacewa, Isaac Boss and Shane Jennings around hardly hurts either. The Scarlets sit seventh and have managed to win just once this season away from Llanelli.
Team news: Leinster’s back line is significantly strengthened by the return of Eoin Reddan, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney while Sean Cronin comes into the front row.
Llanelli, meanwhile, can welcome back Stephen Jones who is sure to give Ian Madigan’s game management a stern test. England back row, Ben Morgan, takes a place on the replacements bench.
Leinster: I Nacewa, D Kearney, E O’Malley, F McFadden, F Carr; I Madigan, E Reddan: J Mcgrath, S Cronin, J Hagan; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin (Capt.) S Jennings, R Ruddock.
Replacements: R Strauss, H van der Merwe, N White, L Auva’a, D Ryan, I Boss, N Reid, B Macken.
Scarlets: D Newton, L Williams, G Maule (Capt) S Williams, A Fenby; S Jones, G Davies: R Jones, E Phillips, D Manu; S Timani, D Day; J Turnbull, J Edwards, K Murphy.
Replacements: C Hawkins, P John, P Edwards, D Walsh, B Morgan, L Davies, A warren, V Iongi.
Treviso v Munster
When: Saturday 15.15
Where to watch: RTE 2.
The Story so far: Tony McGahan’s men were supposed to be in Italy all week, but the weather forced a re-think of that tactic. Munster currently lay fourth, five points behind second place Scarlets, but now have a game in hand on all challengers for their crown.
Team news: As indicated by Declan Kidney this week, Ronan O’Gara will get some much needed game time under his belt before Ireland go hell-for leather at their hectic Six Nations schedule. Felix Jones returns to the squad on the bench having missed out on a place in the World Cup squad due to injury.
New signing, Savena Tokula, will not arrive over from New Zealand in time to further boost Munster’s backline, but he can at least provide cover for Keith Earls until the end of the season.
Oh, and that ‘D O’Callaghan’ in the back row is not Donncha, it’s 21 year old academy product; David.
Treviso: L Nitoglia, T Iannone, E Gaton, A Sgarbi, B Williams; W De Waal, F Semenzato: M Muccignat, F Sbaraglini, P Di Santo; A Pavanello (capt) C Van Zyl, P Derbyshire, B Vermaak, M Filippucci.
Replacements: E Ceccato, A Allori, I Fernandez Rouyet, V Bernabo, G Padro, G Garcia, E Gori, A Di Bernardo.
Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, D Barnes, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D Ryan, M O’Driscoll (capt) D O’Callaghan, P O’Mahony J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, S Archer, B. Holland, T O’Donnell, D Williams, S Deasy, F Jones.
Connacht v Warriors
When: Saturday 17.30
Where to watch: (If not the Sportground) TG4
The Story so far: Like Connacht, the Warriors are a force to be reckoned with on home turf. Away from the heartlands they are much less threatening, but both sides will have targeted this as a chance for a valuable four points.
Glasgow’s last win in Galway was way back in April 2007, and they are tightly focused on reversing that trend.
Team news: Eoghan Grace comes in at open side flanker in place of Ray Ofisa who sustained a knee injury last week. Eric Elwood has made just one other change from the side which lost out in Cardiff: henry Fa’afili comes in at inside centre in place of Dave McSharry.
The Warriors (and Scotland) will be heartened by the return to fitness of Ruaridh Jackson at fly-half.
Connacht: G Duffy (capt) F vainikolo, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili, T O’Halloran; N O’Conner, P O’Donohoe: B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; J Muldoon, E Grace, G Naoupu.
Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, S Maguire, D Gannon, M Kearney, D Moore, M Jarvis, E Griffin.
Glasgow Warriors: P Murchie, T Seymour, T Nathan, G Morrison (capt) D Lemi; R Jackson, H Pyrgos: R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh; R Verbakel, T Ryder, R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson.
Replacements: F Gillies, G Reid, G Hunter, n Campbell, D Weir, A Dunbar, C Shaw, C Forrester.