Guinness PRO14 – Round 7 Preview
Back in action.
After a two week break for European Cup action, the Pro 14 takes centre stage once more.
Connacht v. Munster 27 Oct 19.35, Sportsground
Connacht welcome Munster to the Sportsground for the first of the Irish derbies down for decision this weekend. Having had a productive two weeks in the Challenge cup, Connacht will look to build on their results over Oyannax and Warriors. Munster come in to this game off the back of a hard fought home victory over Racing Metro and a disappointing draw away to Castres. Significantly, both games were tight affairs and although the calibre of players they faced were not of the highest standard, they did represent much tougher challenges than that of Connachts opponents. On top of that, we are still no closer to deciding who is Munsters first choice outhalf and this is a game which presents an opportunity for the chosen 10 to step up.
Glasgow Warriors v. Southern Kings 27 Oct 19.35, Scotstoun
Without even looking at the fixture list, it would have been easy to predict that Glasgow will be on the warpath after their implosion over the last two weeks. They are a top side who will be bitterly disappointed with how their European venture has panned out. The focus for them now will be on maintaining their unbeaten run in the league. The Southern Kings, who have yet to register a win in the competition have had a major issue in trying to adjust to this league and their bad run of results seems set to continue this weekend.
Verdict: Glasgow BP
Ospreys v. Dragons 27 Oct 19.35, Liberty Stadium
Although they came up short on the scoreboard, last weekend, Ospreys really put it up to the number 1 team in Europe, Saracens. The previous week, they almost beat the number 2 side in Europe, Clermont Auvergne. The fact that this isn’t surprising, tells you more about the Ospreys mentality than it does about their ability. Ospreys have always been a competitive club and their poor start to the season has been surprising, having recorded only 1 win to date (in Round 1 against Zebre). Nevertheless, they are still a dangerous outfit and although they’ve been losing games, they have still turned a corner. There last four games have been against top class sides and this is a game they will welcome. No disrespect to Dragons and the Jackman project but an improving Ospreys and home comforts should settle this one.
Benetton Treviso v. Edinburgh 28 Oct 15.00, Stadio Mongio
As the weeks go on, the more impressive Benetton Treviso become. Their first big scalp of the season came in the shape of an away fixture to Edinburgh, sneaking out with a 4 point win. The following week they backed up that result with victory over Ospreys. Although they didn’t manage to make their mark in the Champions Cup, they did come within 30 seconds of a famous victory over former champions Toulon. Edinburgh have been hit and miss this season but they did record a decent result away to London Irish in the Challenge Cup and will certainly hold no fear when they travel to Italy this weekend. This is a hard game to call but given the Ireland squad is due to be announced for their upcoming November internationals, this could be one last opportunity for Ian McKinley of Treviso to throw his hat in the ring as back backup to Sexton.
Zebre v. Toyota Cheetahs 28 Oct 18.00, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Another difficult one to call with both sides showing improvements since the beginning of the season. The Cheetahs are one of the most exciting sides in the competition going forward and the last time the sides met, they scored 93 points between them. The Toyota Cheetahs were the better side that day and in truth, it is they who have the ability to really take this league by the scruff of the neck. In order to do that, they must first sort out their away form and that begins on Saturday.
Verdict: Toyota Cheetahs BP
Ulster v. Leinster 28 Oct 18.30, Kingspan Stadium
The second of the Irish derbies this weekend takes place on Saturday evening when Leinster travel to Belfast to take on the Northern Province. Both played away from home in last weekends Champions Cup with entirely different outcomes. Ulster travelled to La Rochelle and left truly humbled while Leinster put manners on the Glaswegians, effectively knocking them out of the competition before they’ve even started. Most impressive about their victory was their willingness to trust and back their system. With Sexton at the peak of his game and Carberry setting the world alight from fullback, they look completely assured in what they’re doing. On the other hand, Ulster who can be just as good as Leinster on their day, don’t appear to be playing with that same assertiveness. Their decision to drop Stockdale from the starting line-up for their French mission was a baffling one and what it revealed was a lack of belief in their own ability. Stockdale will surely be restored to the wing this weekend and will be keen to reassert himself in the mind of Joe Schmidt. With news of Simon Zebos imminent departure, the back three for Ireland may well become wide open once again. This game should be another closely fought encounter to add to the weekends fixtures but Leinster have proven they can go anywhere and win and the form guide suggests they just might do that again this weekend.
Scarlets v. Cardiff Blues 28 Oct 19.35, Parc y Scarlets
Just like Glasgow, Scarlets too blew their chances of any European success last weekend by virtue of a home defeat to Bath. This week they will have a point to prove and will be keen to reaffirm their status as current Pro 14 champions when they welcome neighbours, Cardiff Blues to Parc y Scarlets. The Blues are ever improving and they are more than capable of causing an upset in this one. With a mobile backrow and a gifted backline, they could well sneak this one.
Verdict: Cardiff Blues