Pro14, Round 10 - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: Springbok loose-forward Marcell Coetzee is expected back from injury to bolster Ulster in Saturday’s plum PRO14 derby against Munster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.
Coetzee recently announced that he will be returning to South Africa to play for the Bulls next year, something that is a sure indication of him being determined to be in the Bok team that is scheduled to play the series against the British and Irish Lions next year.
He hasn’t played since his announcement, which apparently upset Ulster’s fans, as he was ruled out for a few weeks with concussion, but has come through the protocols and is ready to play on Saturday.
It is up to debate whether his fellow South African, CJ Stander of Munster and Ireland, will be in the Lions squad (he was part of the Lions team that drew a series with the All Blacks a few years ago), but Coetzee will nonetheless see the value of putting in an extra big effort in Saturday night’s head-to-head confrontation.
There are plenty of other reasons aside from the battle between the two South African loose forwards for local rugby fans to seat themselves in front of the television for this match on Saturday night.
With the new local Covid restrictions forcing the Currie Cup clash between the Cheetahs and Western Province into an earlier time slot and away from the initial 19.00 Saturday night kick-off, the Belfast derby can take centre stage. The game, which kicks off at 19.15 South African time, is between two unbeaten teams.
Covid postponements have restricted Munster to just seven games in Conference B, but they have won them all. Ulster has been in even more impressive form, racking up nine straight victories in Conference A.
With Leinster having been prevented by Covid from playing their plum fixture against Munster on the Christmas weekend, Ulster has gone ahead of them in their conference battle, which is a rare thing these days.
The additional South African interest in the Kingspan clash revolves around Munster’s strong South African presence. Apart from having Stander as a kingpin among their loose-forwards, Munster has a former Springbok and Bulls assistant coach in the form of Johann van Graan as well as Bok World Cup winner Damian de Allende in their team. After a slow start, the latter has been regaining his top form and has been an influential presence in the Munster midfield.
While the Belfast game has been rightly billed as the PRO14 game of the season so far, there are several other games in this derby weekend that should attract a lot of focus. For instance, the later game on Saturday night, that between Leinster and Connacht in Dublin (21.35) is effectively a clash between the second-placed sides in the respective conferences. Leinster will start as outright favourites of course, as they should after a 26-man winning run in the competition, but Connacht has been a team that has built a reputation for giving the Dubliners an unexpected hard time in the past.
The Scottish derby between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield earlier on Saturday (17.00) always attracts South African interest because of the number of expats in the respective teams and both teams will start desperate for a win.
We take a closer look at each match!
Friday, January 1
Scarlets v Dragons
(Parc y Scarlets – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Sitting third in Conference B, Scarlets have lost just once in their last four PRO14 matches – a narrow 26-24 reverse at Ulster in Round Seven.
They now face a Dragons side whose two-match winning run was brought to an end on Boxing Day as Cardiff Blues beat them by just a single point, triumphing 13-12 at Rodney Parade.
Scarlets clearly enjoy a Welsh derby, having won the last five matches against their fellow regions, but Dean Ryan’s Dragons have won their last two away matches in the PRO14 and are looking for three consecutive road victories in the Championship for the first time since 2004.
However, they will have to overcome the weight of history in order to accomplish that feat as Dragons have visited Parc y Scarlets on 13 previous occasions in all tournaments but have never won.
@rugby365com: Scarlets by 18 points
Scarlets: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Phil Price, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Paul Asquith.
Dragons: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Aneurin Owen, 23 Evan Lloyd.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones, Gwyn Morris (both WRU)
TMO: Wayne Davies (WRU)
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
(Cardiff Arms Park – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
With Cardiff Arms Park still out of commission and their temporary Rodney Parade home hosting football this weekend, the Blues will play a game at Cardiff City Stadium for the first time since April 2012.
They beat Edinburgh 38-13 on that occasion but their recent PRO14 form is more patchy, with just two wins in the last seven rounds – both at Rodney Parade against Benetton in November and Dragons on Boxing Day.
But Friday’s opponents Ospreys are also struggling for form, a 24-22 triumph over Benetton in Round 7 their only victory in the last five league matches.
Ospreys’ record at Cardiff City Stadium will buoy them – having won their most recent two matches at the venue – and while the Blues have triumphed in the last two encounters between the sides, the capital club have never won three in succession against their westerly rivals since the regions were formed in 2003.
@rugby365com: Cardiff by six points
Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 James Botham, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Luke Scully, 23 Willis Halaholo.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Sam Cross, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Will Griffiths, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Tiaan Thomas Wheeler, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans, Dan Jones (both WRU)
TMO: Rhys Thomas (WRU)
Saturday, January 2
Benetton v Zebre
(Stadio Communale di Monigo – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 GMT)
The Treviso-based side have not been victorious in a domestic match since triumphing against Saturday’s opponents in Parma back in August, although they did beat Stade Français in Paris in Round 1 of the European Challenge Cup.
It has now been over a year since Benetton won a match on their own turf, with a 36-25 victory over Zebre back in December 2019 their last success at Stadio Monigo.
Kieran Crowley’s side have the advantage over their compatriots in the head-to-head however, with 15 wins to Zebre’s five in the 20 meetings between the two sides.
Meanwhile, Zebre make the journey across Italy with just one victory in their last nine Guinness PRO14 matches, a 23-17 home triumph over Ospreys back in Round 4, and having won 18-16 at Brive in Europe last time out they are seeking successive away victories for the first time since January 2016.
@rugby365com: Benetton by 15 points
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Callum Braley, 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Ivan Nemer.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Gallo, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Paolo Garbisi.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Nicolò Casilio, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Michelangelo Biondelli.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR, 10th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Manuel Bottino (both FIR)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (FIR)
Edinburgh v Glasgow
(Murrayfield – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
You can barely split these two in recent history, with the hosts claiming the points 18 times in the last 38 meetings, and the Warriors emerging victorious in 19 matches, with a solitary draw back in 2011.
With two wins apiece in the four contests last season, this one could go either way in the Scottish capital, and with both sides languishing on just two wins this season, the stakes are higher than ever.
There has been no such thing as home advantage for Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh side in 2020, with just one win on their own turf since February – an 18-0 success over Cardiff Blues in Round 5.
Similarly, Danny Wilson’s Warriors have just one win on the road since August, with the Blues once again succumbing to a 19-10 defeat to the Scottish side in Round 8.
@rugby365.com: Edinburgh by 5 points
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (co-captain), 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jamie Hodgson, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (co-captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 James Johnstone.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Ratu Tagive, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Mathews, 17 George Thornton, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Jamie Dobbie, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Glenn Bryce.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Ben Blain, Hollie Davidson (both SRU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)
Ulster v Munster
(Kingspan Stadium – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
The irresistible force of Ulster meets the immovable object of Munster in the game of the PRO14 season so far.
Two perfect records will be on the line with Conference A leaders Ulster winning nine in a row and Conference B table-toppers Munster stitching together seven successive victories.
The Kingspan is a true fortress with Ulster’s last defeat on home soil coming to Connacht in October 2018. The last time Munster returned south with a result was a 24-24 draw in April 2018.
The form book goes out of the window in inter-pro rugby and that may favour Munster, who have won only one of their last five encounters against fellow Irish provinces.
@rugby365.com: Ulster by 3 points
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 David McCann, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Callum Reid, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ben Moxham.
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Liam O’Connor.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace, Rob O’Sullivan (both IRFU)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)
Leinster v Connacht
(RDS Arena – Kick-off 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
If a cross-conference battle of the second placed sides wasn’t enough, a sprinkling of festive Irish inter-pro rugby mean this fixture has it all.
Leinster’s colours have not been lowered by a fellow Irish province since Munster visited Aviva Stadium in October 2014, boasting a 26-game PRO14 winning run.
Andy Friend’s visitors are still searching for consistency having won four and lost four of their last eight games – and away form will be a concern, having won just twice on the road since March.
But the men from Galway have caused Leinster problems over the years, beating the PRO14 champions 47-10 in April 2018 and narrowly missing out in a 33-29 RDS thriller in December 2018.
@rugby365.com: Leinster by 18 points
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Dan Leavy, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Josh Murphy, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Liam Turner, 23 Will Connors.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Peter Sullivan, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Sean Masterson, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (captain), 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Cian Prendergast, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 23 Ben O’Donnell.
Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Eoghan Cross (both IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)