Who Can We Expect To See In The PRO14 Knockout Stages?
If you have wrapped your head around the PRO14’s Conference system as well as the knockout stages then congratulations, you’re doing well.
With the newly formed league entering its 3rd weekend of games, it is probably too early to think about who could be in contention to win the inaugural PRO14… But we’re going to do it anyway.
If you look at the Conferences how they are, (as of the 11/09/2017), Munster and Scarlets currently top the tables at the moment with Leinster and Glasgow in hot pursuit. With the league structure how it is, it’s hard to see who will end up on top. But with the ever looming departure of Rassie Erasmus from Munster, it throws the chances of the southern province to win their Conference up in the air. With this in mind, Glasgow, with ex-Chiefs Coach Dave Rennie taking the reins, could very well end up topping Conference A. But we’re gonna go for Munster right now.
Conference B is just as tight, with both Leinster and with PRO12 Champions Scarlets battling it out for top spot. Scarlets famously broke Leinster’s unbeaten run at the RDS in the PRO12 semi-finals, making them the only team in the PRO12 to win a semi-final away from home. Although Scarlets are currently topping the Conference on points difference, the Welsh side have hardly had the most challenging of starts to the season, playing the Southern Kings and Zebre, so anything is possible. For that reason, we’re taking the bookies side and saying Leinster will top Conference B with Scarlets coming a very close second.
As gathered from the semi-finalists, Munster and Leinster will be in the play-offs if our prediction is anything to go by. But who will face them? This is where it gets tricky. After losing their opening fixture and making hard work of a bonus point victory over the Southern Kings, Connacht are currently the 3rd place team in Conference A. But with a new coach and with many more difficult games to come, can everyone’s favourite underdogs make the play-offs? As amazing as it would be for the westerners to have a successful season, Ospreys could make that challenging. Even though they have had a disappointing start to the season, lacking a bonus point against Zebre at home and losing against the Glasgow Warriors, they made the semi’s in the PRO12 last year with relative ease, so it might not be impossible for them to find their way into the play-offs.
In Conference B, once again we’re looking at a tight race. Ulster were unable to find the bonus point against Treviso in Italy at the weekend and with Edinburgh seemingly finding a new flare for winning, it’s hard to see who could make the play-off stages. With Ulster lacking the leadership of Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson, it’s hard to see them do any better than the play-offs at the moment, but with Edinburgh having won both home and away against the Cardiff Blues and Newport Dragons respectively, it might go their way should their form continue and injuries be limited.
My money’s on the underdogs.