The Irish provinces return to Guinness PRO14 action this weekend after a three-week absence as the Six Nations has taken centre stage over the last few weeks.
As we are in the midst of a fallow week in the Six Nations, attention will shift back to the PRO14 and here we provide a little reminder as to where the Irish provinces stand as Round 15 gets underway on Friday night.
Munster have won their last three games in the PRO14 and this coinciding with the Glasgow Warriors’ dip in form has seen them claim top spot in Conference A.
Munster’s most recent outing came in an ugly win against the Dragons at Rodney Parade but they face what looks to be an easier task when they host the Southern Kings at Irish Independent Park in Cork on Friday night.
A full complement of points here would do nicely as Johann van Graan’s charges look to hold on to first place and also with the knowledge that tricky trips to Wales are further down the line.
Current Position: 1st (Conference A)
Next Three Fixtures: Southern Kings (H), Ospreys (A), Scarlets (A)
Ulster, like so many teams in Conference B, are in the midst of a battle to secure one of the playoff positions.
With Leinster all but certain to secure top spot in Conference B, Ulster will hope to secure second or third but just two points currently separate second-placed Benetton and the northern province who are in fifth.
Despite their European exploits which has seen them qualify for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup, Ulster’s recent form in the PRO14 has been poor.
After the win at home against Munster over the festive period, they have lost to Connacht and Leinster while they salvaged a draw at home to Benetton thanks to a late penalty try in their last outing.
Up next for the northern province is a trip to Wales on Friday night to take on the Ospreys. Due to the congested nature of the table, a win here would go a long way in beginning to distance themselves from the rest for that elusive playoff spot.
Current Position: 5th (Conference B)
Next Three Fixtures: Ospreys (A), Zebre (H), Dragons (A)
For Leinster, things couldn’t be going better. They bounced back from that disappointing defeat to Munster at Thomond Park over Christmas with home wins over Ulster and Scarlets.
That little dip in form hasn’t had much of an impact as they currently lead Conference B by a huge 21 points over second-placed Benetton.
Leo Cullen’s side travel to Parma for a Saturday clash with Zebre and they then follow that up with home fixtures against the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs.
Three wins are likely and at that stage, Leinster should have first place all but secured.
Current Position: 1st (Conference B)
Next Three Fixtures: Zebre (A), Southern Kings (H), Cheetahs (H)
Munster and Glasgow have opened up a bit of a gap at the top of Conference A so it looks like it will be a four-way shootout for 3rd place.
Connacht are currently in fourth, just behind the Ospreys who are in third. Both teams are level on points but the Welsh side occupies third due to them winning eight games so far in this championship compared to Connacht’s seven.
Just two points separate Ospreys in third and the Cheetahs in sixth so every point from here on in will likely have a major say in the playoff picture come the end of the season.
Andy Friend’s side’s form has been mixed of late.
They recorded just one win over their interprovincial rivals over the festive period and they followed that up with a one-point loss away to the Cardiff Blues last time out.
They welcome the Cheetahs to the Sportsground on Saturday and they will be targetting a win in this one.
Current Position: 4th (Conference A)
Next Three Fixtures: Cheetahs (H), Glasgow Warriors (A), Ospreys (H)