After another thrilling weekend of United Rugby Championship action, attention quickly turns to what Round 3 has to offer.
Benetton pulled off arguably the result of the round with a last-gasp triumph over Edinburgh last time out and they travel to Ulster on Friday for a clash between two of the competition’s unbeaten sides.
The Ospreys and the Cell C Sharks meet in Swansea on Friday night before a packed Saturday programme kicks off with Leinster hosting Zebre.
Glasgow Warriors will be hunting successive wins over South African opposition when they face the Emirates Lions while Connacht welcome the Dragons and Edinburgh host the DHL Stormers
Saturday night’s entertainment is rounded off by a clash between Cardiff and the Vodacom Bulls in the Welsh capital before the Scarlets and Munster serve up some essential Sunday viewing from Llanelli.
FRI – Ulster v Benetton
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast | KO (20:35 ITA & SA) | Live on Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Ulster and Benetton will put their winning starts to the season on the line, with the Ulstermen having picked up bonus-point victories in each of their opening two matches.
The Irish province have not been beaten by Italian opponents since losing to Zebre in September 2017 and their only previous defeat to Benetton came back in 2011.
Benetton have never won the opening three matches of the season but neither have they won a game outside Italy since March 2020.
Their last clash with an Irish province ended in a 20-12 home win against Connacht. They have never won successive matches against Irish opponents.
FRI – Ospreys v Cell C Sharks
Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea | (20:35 ITA & SA) | Live on Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
The Ospreys have not kicked off a campaign with three straight victories since the 2016-17 season but they have the opportunity to do just that this weekend following wins against the Dragons and Cardiff.
The Swansea-based region have lost their last two matches against South African opponents, beaten at home by both the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs in November 2019.
Friday’s visitors have yet to register a victory in the United Rugby Championship and picked up their last win just over a month ago in the Currie Cup semi-finals.
SAT – Leinster v Zebre
RDS Arena, Dublin | (14:00 ITA & SA) | Live on RTE, Mediaset, Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Leinster have a formidable record against Italian opposition and their only defeat in such fixtures came at home to Benetton in April 2018.
Leo Cullen’s side have won their last three home matches since they were beaten 27-3 by Munster in Dublin during the Rainbow Cup and they prevailed 48-31 when these sides met in Parma in March.
Zebre, meanwhile, are without a win since February and their last championship victory outside Italy came last November – both of those results coming against the Dragons.
Leinster have won all 15 of the previous encounters between the teams.
SAT – Glasgow Warriors v Emirates Lions
Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow | KO (16:05 ITA & SA) | Live on Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Glasgow have suffered only one defeat in their last six matches across the Rainbow Cup and United Rugby Championship – a 35-29 reverse to Ulster in Round 1.
The Warriors have won their last five matches at Scotstoun and their only two previous defeats in nine matches against South African opponents have come away from home.
The Lions have never faced Scottish opposition in a competitive fixture before and will be looking for a return to winning ways after following up their victory against Zebre in Round 1 with a defeat to the Scarlets last time out.
SAT – Connacht v Dragons
The Sportsground, Galway | KO (18:15 ITA & SA) | Live on S4C, TG4, Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Connacht are bidding to win three home championship games in a row for the first time since October 2019.
The Dragons, meanwhile, are hoping to snap a run of six straight defeats since beating the Scarlets 52-32 in the Rainbow Cup in April.
Connacht have won their last three matches against the Dragons while the Newport outfit’s only previous victory at The Sportsground came all the way back in May 2004 – their inaugural visit to the venue.
Connacht were 30-20 victors when they visited Rodney Parade in February while the Dragons were beaten 33-12 on their last trip to Galway.
SAT – Edinburgh v DHL Stormers
DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh | KO (18:15 ITA & SA) | Live on Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Edinburgh have won only one of their last six matches across the United Rugby Championship and Rainbow Cup – a 26-22 triumph over the Scarlets in Round 1.
They were downed by a last-gasp drop goal at Benetton last time out but will be bidding to maintain their winning record at the new DAM Health Stadium when the DHL Stormers visit.
The capital club have played seven previous matches against South African opponents, losing just twice – both on the road against the Cheetahs in 2017 and the Southern Kings in 2019.
The Stormers have lost their last four matches across the URC and the Rainbow Cup.
SAT – Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls
Arms Park, Cardiff | KO (20:35 ITA & SA) | Live on S4C, Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
Cardiff welcome the Vodacom Bulls boasting an impressive recent home record, having won their last four matches at the Arms Park.
The capital region have lost only two of their previous eight matches against South African opponents, with both of those defeats coming away from home.
The Bulls have lost their last two matches but have not lost three in succession since doing so in Super Rugby in February 2020.
Cardiff’s Owen Lane is the competition’s joint-top try scorer with three from the opening two matches, sitting alongside Benetton’s Gianmarco Lucchesi and Nick Timoney of Ulster.
SUN – Scarlets v Munster
Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli | KO (15:00 ITA & SA) | Live on RTE, S4C, Premier Sports, SuperSport, URC TV
The Scarlets have lost just one of their last six home matches across the PRO14, Rainbow Cup and United Rugby Championship.
The Llanelli-based region suffered a 28-10 defeat when they visited Thomond Park in March while the most recent meeting at Parc y Scarlets ended 30-27 in the Munstermen’s favour, with Leigh Halfpenny kicking all of the Scarlets’ points.
Munster have lost just twice away from home in any competition in 2021 – at Ulster in January and Leinster in the PRO14 final.
The Irish province have won their last 14 matches against Welsh regions in all competitions.