Leinster out to rule roost
Leinster v Connacht, The RDS
Tomorrow 5.0 (live TG4)
It is third versus fourth between these two Irish provinces locked on 14 points, three behind Munster and six adrift of the new leaders the Ospreys.
How quickly it can all change. It was only two weeks ago that Leinster were staring down the barrel of three losses in four before an unlikely win at the Scarlets gave them the impetus to snatch their first bonus-point win at home to Aironi.
While all of this was happening, Munster suffered their first defeat of the season to leave Ospreys as the only undefeated club in the league. Interesting. Very interesting.
Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan (pictured) was given a sharp reminder of the distance he has to travel in his career as a conductor of the orchestra when he was dropped for Noel Reid last week.
His response was emphatic. The debutant Reid was withdrawn at half-time as Leinster trailed by seven points. He was deemed to have retreated back into a mental shell after a promising start.
From there, Madigan sparked an emphatic revival with a nice blend between the kick and the run to harvest a bonus-point win. He is learning quickly.
In the meantime, Connacht have been moving reasonably smoothly given their unspectacular status in this league. They needed a head start before the return of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish World Cup heroes to other more prosperous clubs.
They have had to cope with the loss of their top try-scorer Fionn Carr and anchor tight-head Jamie Hagan to the raiding European Cup champions. They will not lack motivation.
The Westerners have to travel all the way back in time to Donnybrook in September 2002 for the one and only occasion they have beaten Leinster in the capital city.
Their last four matches have gone with home advantage. This is a trend that has to come to an end sooner or later. On balance and on paper, this is Connacht's best chance of turning the tide.
Munster v The Ospreys, Thomond Park, tomorrow 7.30 (live RTE2)
The next step along the road in the World Cup will be known before this little Irish-Welsh tussle in the heart of Limerick. One club will enter into this skirmish in high spirits; the other, possibly, with lower morale.
Munster have the carrot of ending the only pristine record in the Pro12 League after half-a-dozen rounds.
The reward would be a return to the top of the league, which they lost on the back of their defeat to Edinburgh last Friday.
It should be enough of an incentive for Tony McGahan's men, despite the apparent confidence and style of the Welsh outfit, who have been benefitting from the coaching nous of Australian innovator Scott Johnson.
Ulster v Benetton Treviso, Ravenhill, tonight 7.05 (live BBC2)
Coach Brian McLaughlin couldn't have picked a better opponent, save maybe the other Italians Aironi, against whom to repair some of the damage done by consecutive losses to the Ospreys and the Dragons.
There is no denying the naivety and have-a-go attitude of their callow set of backs has cost them points.
But Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Nevin Spence and Craig Gilroy will form the core of this sector in the years ahead.
Still, the return of Jared Payne, Darren Cave and Ian Humphreys should provide better judgement on the ball. The main problem is the lack of leadership in front of this enthusiastic quartet, where captain Chris Henry needs to mobilise his troops.
Ulster: J Payne; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, I Whitten; I Humphreys, P Marshall; D Fitzpatrick, A Kyriacou, J Cronin, T Barker, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, M McComish, C Henry (capt).
Benetton Treviso: Ludovico Nitoglia; Tommaso Iannone, Ezio Galon, Luca Morisi, Brendan Williams; Kristopher Burton, Tobias Botes; M Rizzo, E Ceccato, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (capt), V Bernabo, F Minto, B Vermaak, M Filippucci.