PRO14 rugby returns with a bang after a week absent of captivating Championship action, as each of the 12 contesting teams continue their bid for glory while the Conference tables gradually take shape. With none of the sides involved in the previous weekend’s European finale, each will have benefited from the chance to rest and regroup, although the first instalment of the Guinness Six Nations’ return presents a challenge to teams from Ireland and Italy.
While there is still a long way to go in the 2020/21 season and no team can be written off at this stage, don’t expect any drama to be missing from Round 3, with four teams looking to extend their 100 per cent records, and another four looking to get off the mark.
Triple-defending champions Leinster are looking to extend their 21-match winning streak in the Guinness PRO14 against Zebre, while last season’s Conference B table-toppers Edinburgh are searching for their first win at home to 2015/16 champions Connacht.
CLICK ON THE FIXTURES TO HEAD TO THE MATCH CENTRE FOR LINE UPS AND MORE
RDS Arena, Dublin | KO 19:35 UK, 20:35 ITA | Live on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 1, DAZN, TG4, pro14.tv
Unbeaten at home in the Championship since Glasgow Warriors trumped them at the RDS Arena in April 2019, Leo Cullen’s men will surely be confident of strengthening their bid for a fourth-straight title with victory over winless Zebre in Dublin.
While the Irishmen have swept past Dragons 35-5 and Benetton 37-25 so far this campaign, Michael Bradley’s charges came unstuck at home to Dean Ryan’s Welshmen last time out, after losing their season opener at home to Cardiff Blues.
Having been defeated in all 13 previous meetings between the two sides - and having only scored two tries in six visits to the RDS - Zebre face an uphill task, but will be buoyed by the narrow, 3-0 scoreline they were on the wrong side of in their last clash against Leinster.
Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso | KO 20:15 UK, 21:15 ITA | Live on Premier Sports 2, DAZN, S4C, pro14.tv
Itching to return to the sort of form that earned them a quarter-final spot in 2018/19, Benetton know they need a win soon if they are to avoid falling too far behind in the race for the Final Series.
Defeats against last season’s finalists Ulster and Leinster produced plenty of positives for coach Kieran Crowley, and the Treviso-based outfit will be hoping to get the better of another Guinness PRO14 heavyweight this time out, which would provide them with their first win at Stadio Monigo since December.
Scarlets have similarly lost two from two, and the 2016/17 champions are aiming for their first win in three in Italy - having lost on both previous occasions to Benetton in February 2018 and February 2019.
Liberty Stadium, Swansea | KO 17:30 | Live on Premier Sports 1, pro14.tv
After finishing bottom of Conference A last year, Ospreys looked back towards their best with an impressive 25-10 win at Edinburgh in Round 1, before falling 24-12 at home to Ulster a week later.
Toby Booth’s men will be looking to prove their last performance was a mere blip, with what would be their first victory at the Liberty Stadium in over 12 months - their last home victory coming against Benetton last October.
Warriors impressed last time out against Scarlets to earn their first victory, and will be confident of doubling their tally having won their last four encounters against the Swansea-based side, since February 2017.
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast | KO 15:00 | Live on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 1, pro14.tv
Keen to go one better than their Guinness PRO14 exploits last time out and claim the coveted trophy for the first time in 15 years, Ulster have hit the ground running so far and will be looking to extend an unbeaten record at the Kingspan that stretches back to October 2018.
While Dan McFarland’s side have two wins from two in 2020/21, Dragons are searching for successive Championship wins for the first time since November 2016, having beaten Zebre 26-18 in Round 2.
And although Dean Ryan’s side were among the most improved sides throughout 2019/20, they have won just one match on the road since the start of last season and haven’t beaten Ulster in Belfast for over 12 years.
BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh | KO 19:35 | Live on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 1, pro14.tv
Edinburgh’s last-gasp, 25-23 defeat to Munster in Round 2 signaledalled a fourth successive Championship defeat for the Scotsmen, their worst run in the competition since April 2017.
Richard Cockerill’s men need to find form quickly if they are going to emulate their run to the semi-finals last season, and come up against a Connacht side who have won just once away from home in any competition since last November.
While the Galway-based side’s most recent win at BT Murrayfield was in the 2016 PRO14 final against Leinster, Connacht impressed with 28-24 victory over Glasgow Warriors in Round 1, before going down 29-7 away at Cardiff Blues.
Thomond Park, Limerick | KO 20:15 | Live on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 1, TG4, pro14.tv
The final contest of Round 3 sees the current Conference B table-toppers battle it out in Limerick, with Munster hoping to build on wins over Scarlets and Edinburgh and maintain their hopes of clinching a fourth Championship title on the inaugural Monday Night Rugby.
Johann van Graan’s side are in a rich vein of form having only lost twice in their last eight Guinness PRO14 encounters - both to Leinster - while visitors Cardiff Blues haven’t won away to an Irish province since September 2017.
But Blues impressively saw off Connacht last time out after beating Zebre in Round 1,and will be desperate to seal their first win at Thomond Park in all tournaments, having lost on all eight previous visits.