RaboDirect PRO12: Play-off positions to be decided on the final day of the regular season
Last Updated: 10/05/14 9:38pm
Leinster face eighth-placed Edinburgh in the final round of RaboDirect PRO12 action knowing a point is enough to secure a home semi-final, while two points will cement top spot.
The reigning champions have lost just one of their last 11 contests in the competition, while Edinburgh have slipped to four straight defeats in the PRO12 since their 23-19 victory against Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has made eight changes in total from the side that beat Ulster last Friday with Sean O'Brien making his first since December and Jordi Murphy also added to the pack alongside Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross.
Leo Cullen captains the side form the second row, while three changes to the backs see Rob Kearney and Jimmy Gopperth adding to the starting line-up with Zane Kirchner taking over the No 15 jersey.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons makes just three changes to his side, with Jack Cuthbert's selection for the Scotland Sevens and a knee injury to Tom Brown enforcing two of the switches.
Carl Bezuidenhout moves to full-back to take the berth vacated by Cuthbert, with Harry Leonard coming in to start his last game for the club at stand-off, while Sam Beard starts in place of Brown and Ben Toolis makes his second start of the season.
Glasgow Warriors also enter their final regular-season match assured of play-off place, but victory over struggling Zebre at Scotstoun could see them claim No 1 seeding, depending on Leinster’s result.
The Warriors have won their last seven matches - equalling the club record – and have not lost to an Italian opponent since September 2011, while Zebre must retain their advantage over Treviso to claim the Italian European Champions Cup place.
Sean Lamont returns to make his first start for Glasgow since being injured in Scotland’s Six Nations defeat to France in March, while Alex Dunbar also comes back to form a centre partnership with Peter Horne for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, there are just two changes in the Zebre squad as Guglielmo Palazzani - matchwinner against Ospreys in the injury time - starts at scrum-half, while utility back Giulio Toniolatti recovers from a nose trauma to start.
Munster are certain of a top-three finish but should results go their way, they are another club that can claim top spot if they register a bonus-point win at Thomond Park over Ulster, who also know they will feature in the semi-finals.
The Munstermen's last three matches have all been won by the away side on the day but have not lost back to back contests in Limerick in the competition since April 2010, while Ulster have lost their last two away games, at Cardiff Blues and at Glasgow.
Munster head coach Rob Penney has named 10 changes to his starting line-up with Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, while the midfield sees the return of James Downey and Casey Laulala.
Mark Anscombe has also made a raft of changes to his Ulster, which will be captained by Ireland international Dan Tuohy, who is one of 12 changes to the side that lost to Leinster last week including starts for Craig Gilroy, David McIlwaine, Michael Allen, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes, James McKinney and Michael Heaney.
Although Ospreys can no longer reach the PRO12 play-offs, they have secured a place in next season’s European Champions Cup and a fifth-place finish for the second successive season before they take on Connacht at the Liberty Stadium.
Ospreys have lost just one of their last five home games in all tournaments, while victory could see Connacht equal their best ever finish, eighth place in both 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Steve Tandy names just two changes to the side that was beaten by Zebre last Thursday, with Aisea Natoga and James King being replaced by Jeff Hassler and Sam Lewis respectively.
Meanwhile, there are four personnel changes for Connacht, who draft in hooker Dave Heffernan, prop Denis Buckley and centre Dave McSharry, while there is just a second start for Conor Gilsenan.
Scarlets have also secured a European berth for next season but will keen to exact revenge on compatriots Cardiff Blues in their final match of the season.
Scarlets only defeat in their last four matches was to the Blues at Millennium Stadium on ‘Judgement Day’, but Scarlets are unbeaten at Parc y Scarlets in the PRO12 in 2014 and the Blues have only won away to a Welsh region once in four seasons of PRO12 rugby.
Simon Easterby has made five changes to his Scarlets line-up that secured victory, and European qualification, over Newport Gwent Dragons last Friday, with Liam Williams making a return to the full-back after a two-week ban and Rhodri Williams is handed a start at scrum half.
Alex Cuthbert and Harry Robinson, who both move to Saturday's opponents in the summer, will hit the half century as Blues hunt a fifth successive league victory to finish the campaign in style and coaching duo Dale McIntosh and Paul John make a number of changes to the side, with centre Isaia Tuifua and fly-half Simon Humberstone among those coming into the squad.
Newport Gwent Dragons will bid to end their seven-match winless run when they host bottom-club Treviso at Rodney Parade in their final match of the season.
Treviso have lost their last two outings, but must finish the round with more league points than Zebre to wrestle the Italian European qualification spot form their closest rivals.
Dragons fly-half Jason Tovey will clock up his 100th appearance for the club, while their one change sees The one change to the starting XV the faced the Scarlets has been made in the front row as Duncan Bell replace Bruce Douglas as tighthead prop.
Meanwhile, Alberti Di Bernardo wins a rare start at fly-half for Treviso, replacing Mat Berquist in the number ten jersey and Luke McLean - heading for Sale Sharks next season - returns to full-back having played at inside centre in last week's home loss to Glasgow.
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