21 April 2018; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster celebrates with team-mates after scoring their side’s fifth during the European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-Final match between Leinster Rugby and Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile


 Champions Leinster get an opportunity to go back to the top of their conference in the Guinness PRO14 when they travel to Wales this weekend for a game against Scarlets that was rescheduled because of a prior coronavirus outbreak.

Leinster led Conference A in the early weeks of the competition but fellow Irish province Ulster were always hot on their heals. The postponed game and then the unexpected loss to Connacht a couple of rounds ago then pinned Leinster back while Ulster forged ahead, only for Leinster to play themselves back into a good position with a solid home win in the recent face-off between the arch-rivals in Dublin.

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Ulster still have a home game against Leinster to come at the Kingspan and will feel they are still strongly in the race for the top spot in the conference that will secure them a place in the final, but Leinster will increase the pressure if they win in Llanelli in the later of two games to be played on Saturday night. The gap between first placed Ulster and second placed Leinster is just one point.
In the earlier match, another rescheduled fixture, Johan van Graan’s Munster will look to consolidate their strong position at the top of Conference B by winning away against Benetton.


Munster currently enjoy an 11-point lead on second placed Connacht after the same number of games (10) and should be expected to maintain their stranglehold when they visit Treviso as Benetton have been experiencing a poor campaign and have yet to win after nine games. Munster lost narrowly to Leinster last week but even with their top two scrumhalves away on Ireland national duty ahead of the Six Nations they should win with something to spare.
History suggests the Leinster game at Parc Y Scarlets is perhaps less easy to call. Although Scarlets have lost two in a row and will be trying to avoid the ignominy of suffering three successive defeats for the first time since late 2018, they have been a bogey team for Leinster when the Irish team visit them.


Scarlets won 23-21 when the sides last met in Llanelli in September 2018 and that followed a 10-all draw in March of the same year.
The big news for Leinster is that experienced prop Tadhq Furlong is expected to make an eagerly awaited return after being out for almost a year with back, calf and hamstring problems.


Weekend Guinness Pro14 fixture
 
Benetton v Munster (Treviso, Saturday 19.00)
 
Scarlets v Leinster (Llanelli, Saturday 21.35)