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URC, Round three - teams and predictions

SATURDAY & SUNDAY PREVIEWS: It may be early in the season still, but two South African teams go on an Italian mission with the sole purpose of not losing any more ground on the pace-setting pack.

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The Bulls travel to Parma where they face a winless Zebre at Stadio Lanfranchi – looking to bounce back from last week’s loss in Belfast.

The Lions, one of five teams yet to record a win this season, will tackle a powerful Benetton team in Treviso on Sunday.

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White admitted his team will have their work cut out for them against a Zebre team that had twice come close to wins in the opening rounds.

Having lost (19-26) to Ulster at Ravenhill Stadium last week, there is little or no chance of complacency in the camp of the Pretoria-based outfit.

“Nothing is a given,” White said, adding that the added challenge is it is an away game in a tough tournament.

While Zebre lost their last 21 URC matches, there is newfound optimism in the Parma-based team – following the promising start to the season.

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They led at half-time against both Ulster and the Ospreys, before going down to narrow defeats – 36-40 to the Irish outfit an 31-34 to the Welsh team, picking up four bonus points along the way.

Defence coach Richard Hodges – who has come on board after a decade with Cardiff – is encouraged by what he has seen.

“We have hugely improved our kicking game, our discipline has been good, our set piece is a threat and we’ve scored a maul try in each match,” he said.

“People are starting to have a bit of respect back for Zebre.

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“We are going in the right direction.

“I came here because I wanted a real challenge.

“Can we turn them from a side that’s a bit of a laughing stock at times into one that’s viewed differently?

“The perception was you just had to turn up against Zebre. The reality now is that people will take us seriously.

“We now go into three home games – Bulls, Sharks, Cardiff.

“It won’t be easy, but our aim is to try and knock one of them over. I promise you, if we keep training like we do, we will win games this year.”

The Bulls boss, White, admitted they will have to play very well.

“Leinster came within a scrum to beat Ulster and last week they did really, really well and also just lost.”

He added that their ability to score points and tries, meaning the Bulls’ defensive system – a constant issue last season – will be tested.

(Article continues below the Jake White interview …)

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* In the Sunday match, an unbeaten Benetton pose a particular threat at the breakdown, having won seven turnovers in both of their opening two fixtures against Cardiff and Munster.

This encounter in Treviso will also be a fixture that sees two line-out aces in operation.

The home side’s Zimbabwean lock and skipper Eli Snyman has won more line-outs (18) than any other player in the competition this season, while Lions No.8 Francke Horn claimed eight against Edinburgh last weekend as well showing his power by ploughing over for a try.

The Italians have not beaten a South African opponent since their win against the Stormers in Treviso in September 2021.

The Lions will be looking to repeat their only victory outside of South Africa in the last 12 months, which was on their most recent visit to Treviso last March, thereby extending their four-match winning run against Italian opponents.

Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie said the Italian side’s biggest threat is their kicking game.

“They don’t play a lot with the ball and work on playing in the right areas of the field,” Fourie said.

Playing on a normal grass surface also means the wet European conditions will have a major influence of the game.

“It is going to be an arm-wrestle for 80 minutes,” the defence coach said, adding: “It is important to use our opportunities.”

He said they still want to find a way to play an attractive game and play with the ball in hand.

“In these conditions you need to keep the ball, so accuracy will be important,” Fourie added.

* Meanwhile Irish giants Leinster face Scottish counterparts Edinburgh – who will welcome back Scotland stars Duhan van der Merwe and Pierre Schoeman for their trip to the RDS as they look to make it three from three in the URC.

Fellow World Cup squad member Luke Crosbie moves across to No.8 having put in no fewer than 23 tackles from the flank in the victory over the Lions last weekend, the most by any player in Round Two.

“We’re delighted to welcome back Pierre and Duhan,” ne Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt said.

“They are quality players with a lot of experience at the very top.

“They’ve trained really hard this week and are both excited to represent the club once again.

“Leinster are a quality side and a team we have a lot of respect for from No.1 to No.23, but we travel to Dublin with a lot of confidence after two hard-fought wins to start the season, and we can take a lot of positives from the resilience we’ve shown in closing out both victories.”

No player has beaten more defenders in the URC this season than Leinster wing Tommy O’Brien, with 10 opponents left clutching thin air, so Edinburgh will have to keep him on a tight rein.

Other games on Saturday sees Scarlets at home to Cardiff, defending champions Munster hosting the Dragons and Connacht at home to Ulster in an all-Irish derby.

All the Saturday (November 4) and Sunday (November 5) teams and predictions!

  • Zebre Parma v Bulls
    (Stadio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 GMT; 15.00 SA time)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Bulls by 14 points

Teams

Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Scott Gregory, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli (captain), 9 Alessandro Fusco, 8 Davide Ruggeri, 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Guido Volpi, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Dylan de Leeuw, 3 Muhamed Hasa, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Giampietro Ribaldi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Ion Neculai, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Luca Andreani, 21 Taina Fox-Matamua, 22 Gonzalo Garcia, 23 Jacopo Trulla.

Bulls: 15 Devon Williams 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 David Kriel, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Isak Burger, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marcell Coetzee (co-captain), 5 Ruan Nortje (co-captain), 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Wandisile Simelane.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Clara Munarini (Italy) and Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Leinster v Edinburgh
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 15.05; 15.05 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Leinster by 12 points

Teams

Leinster: 15 Ciarán Frawley, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Jamie Osborne, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Jordan Larmour, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Cormac Foley, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny (captain), 6 James Culhane, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Lee Barron, 1 Jack Boyle.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Donnellan, 17 Paddy McCarthy, 18 Rory McGuire, 19 Brian Deeny, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Ben Murphy, 22 Sam Prendergast, 23 Rob Russell.

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Currie, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Luke Crosbie, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Tom Dodd, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Glen Young, 3 WP Nel, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Hector Patterson, 22 James Lang, 23 Chris Dean.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Keane Davison (Ireland) and Jonathan Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)

Scarlets v Cardiff
(Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Cardiff by five points

Teams

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ioan Nicholas, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Eddie James, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Gareth Davies (captain), 8 Vaea Fifita, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 6 Ben Williams, 5 Jac Price, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Shaun Evans, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Isaac Young, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Iwan Shenton, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Archie Hughes, 22 Charlie Titcombe, 23 Jonathan Davies.

Cardiff: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Lopeti Tmani, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Seb Davis, 4 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 3 Rhys Litterick, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Rhys Barratt, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Max Clark, 23 Harri Millard.

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Elgan Williams (Wales) and Keith David (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Munster v Dragons
(Musgrave Park, Cork – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Munster by 18 points

Teams

Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Seán O’Brien, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Calvin Nash, 10 Tony Butler, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Tom Ahern, 4 Edwin Edogbo, 3 John Ryan, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Kieran Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley, 17 Mark Donnelly, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Ruadhán Quinn, 20 Brian Gleeson, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Ben O’Connor.

Dragons: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Taine Basham, 7 James Benjamin, 6 Ryan Woodman, 5 George Nott, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Luke Yendle, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Nathan Evans, 19 Barney Langton-Cryer, 20 George Young, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Aneurin Owen, 23 Ewan Rosser.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland, 36th league game)
Assistant referees: Dan Carson (Ireland) and Sam Holt (Ireland)
TMO: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

Connacht v Ulster
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Connacht by three points

Teams

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Cian Prendergast, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Oisín Dowling, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Tadgh McElroy, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Andrew Smith.

Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Aaron Sexton, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Jake Flannery, 9 Dave Shanahan, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Reuben Crothers, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Harry Sheridan, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 James French, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Tom Stewart, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Greg McGrath, 19 Joe Hopes, 20 David McCann, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Ben Moxham.

Referee: Morné Ferreira (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland) and Robbie Jenkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)

Benetton v Lions
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 14.30 ITA, 13.30 GMT; 15.30 SA time)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Benetton by six points

Teams

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Filippo Drago, 11 Ignacio Mendy, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman (captain), 4 Edoardo Iachizzi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosué Zilocchi, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Marco Zanon.

Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Richard Kriel, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tsituka, 6 Hanru Sirgel, 5 Darrien-Lane Landsberg, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 JC Pretorius, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Rhynardt Jonker, 23 Andries Coetzee.

Referee: Peter Martin (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland) and Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

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