Guinness PRO14: Where we stand ahead of Saturday's final league stage fixtures
By Sky Sports Rugby
Last Updated: 29/04/18 1:34pm
The 21st and final round of the Guinness PRO14 league stage takes place on Saturday when the Final Series positions will be decided in the two conferences.
Glasgow Warriors have already wrapped up top spot in Conference A but there could still be plenty at stake in their 1872 Cup decider against Edinburgh at Murrayfield (7.35pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Action).
Edinburgh sit in third place in Conference B with 64 points with one match to play - the top three teams qualify for the knockout stage, and automatically for the Champions Cup - but they can still be overtaken by Ulster.
Ulster moved up to 60 points by snatching a crucial bonus-point victory over Glasgow Warriors in their re-arranged Round 17 fixture last weekend, Nick Timoney's last-gasp try securing the additional point and a 36-15 success.
They now require another bonus-point victory on Saturday when they travel to Munster (5.35pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Action) in order to pile the pressure on Edinburgh and lift themselves to 65 points.
If Ulster do manage to claim five points at Thomond Park, against a Munster side looking to bounce back from their Champions Cup defeat at Racing 92, Edinburgh will still only require one point against Glasgow as they have won more matches during the league stage - 14 after 20 fixtures compared to Ulster's 12 - which is the second determining factor for league position after points awarded, ahead of points difference.
Munster are already assured of second place in Conference A and a home quarter-final fixture against the eventual third-placed team in Conference B, so they could be hosting Ulster again next Saturday or Edinburgh.
Scarlets are also in the mix for second and third spot in Conference B - they are currently second with 65 points - and a bonus-point win against the lowly Dragons on Saturday (3.05pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Action) will see them cement the runners-up berth and a home quarter-final in the Final Series.
If they fail to claim the bonus point, or suffer a shock defeat, then Edinburgh can still overtake them as they have won an additional game (14 to 13), but Scarlets' vastly superior points difference - +138 to +56 - means it is highly unlikely that Ulster will end their season altogether if they do claim a bonus-point victory at Munster.
Scarlets are five points behind Conference B leaders Leinster, who beat them 38-16 in the Champions Cup semi-finals last weekend, but the Irish province's points difference is +264 (they have won 14 games) so they are all but assured of top spot even if they are shocked by Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday (3.05pm kick-off).
Third place in Conference A should go to the Cheetahs who have 58 points and face fellow South Africans Southern Kings, who have won only one match all season, on Saturday (2pm kick-off).
Cardiff Blues can, in theory, still take third place - as they have 53 points and like the Cheetahs have won 11 games - with a bonus-point victory over the Ospreys on Saturday, but their fate should be decided before they kick off at 5.35pm.
The Blues do, however, have the Challenge Cup final against Gloucester to look forward to and they have also secured a Champions Cup place for next year as one of the three highest-ranked European clubs in Conference A.
Scarlets, Edinburgh and Ulster are also fighting it out for the final two automatic Champions Cup places in Conference B, with the team that misses out facing a home (due to accumulating more points) play-off game against Ospreys for the seventh and final qualification spot on the weekend of May 18/19/20.
Glasgow and Leinster are therefore both set to go straight through to the semi-finals of the Final Series on the weekend of May 18/19/20 as conference winners, with the Warriors hosting the winner of the match between the Conference B runners-up and the club ranked third in Conference A (Likely Scarlets or Cheetahs), while Leinster will be at home to either the Conference A runners-up or the third-ranked team in Conference B (Likely Munster or Edinburgh)
The winners of the two semi-finals will then meet in the Guinness PRO14 final at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Saturday May 26.
One other issue still to be decided on Saturday is who finishes bottom of Conference A, with Zebre still in with a shout of avoiding the wooden spoon.Michael Bradley's side have claimed back-to-back wins over the Dragons and Ospreys and require another victory over Italian rivals Benetton Rugby (5pm kick-off), coupled with a Connacht defeat at home to Leinster, to snatch sixth place.