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The competition for places in the final six is stepping up in the Guinness PRO12 with another set of vital games for the four Welsh Regions in their bid to climb the league table.

Cardiff Blues travel away to Treviso on Friday evening kicking off at 8.05pm (local time) at Stadio Monigo in Italy; while it’s a top of the table clash in Scotland as the Ospreys look to secure an important win on the road against first-placed Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun (kick off 5.15pm).

The Scarlets have a big battle on Saturday afternoon against second placed Munster at Parc y Scarlets (kick off 2.40pm). Connacht and the Scarlets are competing for sixth place in the table currently and West Wales rugby supporters will have all eyes on the their Welsh colleagues in the Newport Gwent Dragons game on Sunday as the Dragons host Connacht at Rodney Parade (kick of 4pm).

Tickets for exciting Welsh Pro Rugby action at our home grounds this weekend start from just £14 (adults) and £4 (children) at Parc y Scarlets and £13 (adults) £1 (children) at Rodney Parade with both Regions hoping for vocal crowds to back them at two big games. Rodney Parade ticket office 01633 670690. Scarlets ticket office 08718718088.

CARDIFF BLUES

Fly half Gareth Anscombe returns to the starting line-up for Cardiff Blues as they face Benetton Treviso in a crucial Guinness PRO12 fixture at Stadio Monigo in Italy on Friday evening (kick-off 8.05pm local time).

Anscombe, who has been part of the Welsh set-up for the 6 Nations, is released from the international scene and back in the starting line-up as Director of Rugby Mark Hammett makes a total of six changes to his team.

Centres Adam Thomas and Tom Isaacs, who will make his full debut, are the other recalled players in the back division. Welsh ace Cory Allen misses the game through illness. A new-look front row will see Kristian Dacey at hooker while Taufa’ao Filise moves across to pack down at loosehead prop.

The final change to the starting line-up is a call-up for Ellis Jenkins in the back row, as Josh Navidi switches to Number Eight. Hooker Rhys Williams and prop Scott Andrews, also released from Welsh duty, are named among the replacements as Cardiff Blues hunt a return to winning ways in Italy.

The Blues have lost only one of their last seven encounters with Italian opponents in all tournaments: 10-15 at Zebre in the PRO12 last March.
Treviso’s only previous victory over Cardiff Blues in the nine past encounters was 26-17 at Stadio Monigo in the PRO12 on 23rd March 2013.

“We’re under no illusions about what is required this week, especially after last week in Munster. I want to see how we respond to a poor performance and after a performance when we have been really honest with each other afterwards,” said Head Coach Mark Hammett.

“We still have goals and drivers for this season – and we have a big set of three games coming up. There is a vision that the region wants to achieve moving forward so there is plenty to play for.”

Cardiff Blues Tea,: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Lucas Amorosino, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams; 1 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Josh Navidi (c)

Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Miles Normandale, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Owen Jenkins

SCARLETS

The Scarlets are keen to prove that last weekend’s sensational performance wasn’t a one-off as they take on Munster at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday afternoon.

The Scarlets versus Munster match sees the start of the Guinness PRO12 trials of the Hawk-Eye technology system. These results will no doubt assist player welfare and match officiating going forward, maybe into World Rugby’s Rugby World Cup 2015.

With Scarlets’ clash at Parc y Scarlets the first of eight remaining games in the regular season the Scarlets will be look to most the most of the opportunity in front of a home crowd and looking to play some more running rugby.

Head Coach Wayne Pivac said: “It’s an important game. We need to back up the performance on the weekend and ensure it’s not a one off. We need to make sure the players have plenty of petrol in the tank.

“Every rugby player likes to get his hands on the ball and we’d like to encourage that and hopefully if the weather is good on the weekend we’d like to see some more of that.”

Scarlets team: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Regan King, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Ken Owens (capt.), 3 Peter Edwards, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 5 Johan Snyman, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Jacobie Adriaanse, George Earle, Rob McCusker, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Adam Warren

OSPREYS

The Ospreys are back in Scotland again this time against Glasgow in what must be the game of the round to take on the league leaguers with an all-important four points up for grabs.

Winger Dafydd Howells makes his first PRO12 start.

Ospreys team selection: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dafydd Howells, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Martin Roberts, 1 Ryan Bevington, 2 Scott Baldwin, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 4 Tevita Cavubati , 5 Tyler Ardron (Capt), 6 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Dan Baker

Replacements; 16 Scott Otten, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Ieuan Jones, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Hanno Dirksen

Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: Its crucial that we put in a much improved performance after the disappointment of last weekend in Edinburgh. We know how tough its going to be going to a Glasgow team that has been playing really well and is full of confidence, so we need to make a huge step up in terms of what we did last time out.

Week in, week out, we talk about attention to detail, accuracy, being clinical and knowing your roles, and the Edinburgh game showed what happens when we dont hit the expected standards. Thats been the message over the course of this week, and weve been making sure that the boys are focused on the important things ahead of such a big game.”

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS

The 34-year-old is the only change to the Newport Gwent Dragons team that defeated last years Guinness PRO12 table toppers Leinster, at the RDS last weekend.

Head Coach Kingsley Jones commented: “It’s fantastic that we got a win against the champions. Connacht are a very good team and a very serious outfit. I thought that they performed well for large periods of time against the Scarlets but still lost and they will be coming down to Wales again looking for a victory.”

Fullback Jason Tovey retains his place in the back three alongside wings Tom Prydie and Hallam Amos, who was released from Wales camp this week to feature for the Dragons. The centre pairing of Pat Leach and Jack Dixon also stays the same, as well as the half back partnership of Dorian Jones and scrumhalf Jonathan Evans.

Loose head prop Boris Stankovich gets the nod and is joined by fellow prop Brok Harris and hooker T. Rhys Thomas. The second row of Andrew Coombs and skipper Rynard Landman also stays the same, along with flankers James Thomas and Nic Cudd retaining their places as well as number eight Nick Crosswell.

Dragons team to face Connacht: Jason Tovey, Tom Prydie, Pat Leach, Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Dorian Jones, Jonathan Evans; Boris Stankovich, T. Rhys Thomas, Brok Harris, Andrew Coombs, Rynard Landman (c), James Thomas, Nic Cudd, Nick Crosswell.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Dan Way, Ian Gough, James Benjamin, Richie Rees, Ashley Smith, Matthew Pewtner.