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European Champions Cup: Guinness PRO14 sides prepare for round four

The second half of the European double headers is always a great time for rugby fans and this weekend there are plenty of scores to settle across the continent.

Seven Guinness PRO14 teams will be in action in round four of the Champions Cup, including one all-Guinness PRO14 clash in Italy.


Ulster v Harlequins
Kingspan Stadium

It all kicks off on Friday night as Ulster look to complete the double over Harlequins following last weekend’s success in London.

Les Kiss has made two changes to that side, with Chris Henry and Louis Ludik coming into the starting line-up.

Henry performed well off the bench at the Stoop, and gets the nod from the off in the return game, while Ludik replaces the injured Tommy Bowe in the centres.

With La Rochelle having taken 15 points from 15 so far in the competition, Ulster cannot afford a slip-up, but five points could get them right back into the hunt for a quarter-final spot, particularly with the French side set to travel to Belfast in January.


Benetton Rugby v Scarlets
14:00 (GMT)
Stadio Monigo

In arguably the game of the weekend in round three, the Scarlets escaped with the narrowest of victories against Benetton when two late tries helped them to a 33-28 success at Parc y Scarlets.

Benetton’s performance was all the more remarkable considering they lost Francesco Minto to a red card with less than half an hour gone, but in the end they had to settle for two bonus points in defeat.

Minto is suspended for this encounter, with Benetton having made eight changes in all to the team that lost in Wales.

Among the other changes is a first start for Luca Morisi since his return from a knee injury as Benetton chase their first win of the competition.

The Scarlets, meanwhile, have made four changes to their team, with Scott Williams and Dan Jones coming into the back line.

Up front Will Boyde and Rob Evans both get the nod, and if the Scarlets are to make up for their two losses to start the competition, only a win will do.

Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors
14:00 (GMT)
Altrad Stadium

Flying high in the Guinness PRO14, Europe has proved a trickier nut to crack for Glasgow Warriors this season, with three defeats in as many games.

While their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals are all but gone, they can still gain a measure of revenge against Montpellier this weekend following an entertaining encounter last Friday.

Ali Price will make his 50th appearance for the Warriors at scrum-half, while there are four changes to the back line. Tommy Seymour is one of those to come in, replacing the injured Leonardo Sarto after the Italian’s impressive display last week.

There is also good news for Dave Rennie with the return of a pair of international hookers, Fraser Brown and Pat MacArthur to the matchday 23.

Leinster v Exeter Chiefs
Aviva Stadium

Few teams can claim to have made as strong a start to the competition as Leinster, who have won three out of three including wins on the road against the Warriors and Exeter Chiefs.

Last weekend’s win at Sandy Park against the English champions puts them in pole position for a home quarter-final, provided they back it up this weekend.

At the Aviva Stadium, Leinster will be keen to put on a show, with the only change to their starting line-up, the return of Josh van der Flier in place of the injured Rhys Ruddock.

A second-half replacement last week, Van der Flier did enough to earn a spot in the run-on team as Leinster look to make it four wins from four.

With just three other teams having won all their games to date, Leinster are right in contention for a top seed at the end of the group stages and can extend their six-point lead at the top of the group with a win.


Ospreys v Northampton Saints
Liberty Stadium

Having lost their first two games of the competition, the Ospreys knew only a win would do last weekend, but they did just that with a bonus-point success at Franklin’s Gardens.

The return fixture against Northampton Saints will see them face a new-look side, notably with a change of director of rugby following Jim Mallinder’s departure this week.

The Ospreys also welcome back a trio of Welsh internationals, with Justin Tipuric coming straight into the starting line-up at openside flanker.

On the bench are half-back pairing Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar as the Ospreys look for a second successive victory.

With Saracens having lost at home to Clermont on Monday, the Ospreys sit just two points behind the defending champions and could find themselves in a best runner-up spot by the end of the weekend if results go their way.

Leicester Tigers v Munster
Welford Road

Munster are the other unbeaten team in the Champions Cup, having earned two wins and a draw to date including last weekend’s 33-10 success against Leicester.

The teams know each other well, having faced off in each of the last three European seasons, with Munster never having completed a sweep, so Johann van Graan’s team will be very conscious of the challenge ahead of them.

Van Graan welcomes back a pair of Irish internationals Keith Earls and Niall Scannell, both included on the bench after recovering from injury.

Munster currently sit top of Pool 4, with a four-point advantage over Castres in second, and a win would see them take a giant step towards the last eight.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie