URC Round nine: Teams and Predictions
SPOTLIGHT: With the majority of the fixtures in Round Nine postponed, the United Rugby Championship faces major concerns.
The scheduled action-packed New Year’s weekend suffered a major curveball due to Covid-19.
The latest postponed matches are not good news for the tournament, which already sustained major disruptions after five of the six Round Eight fixtures were cancelled.
This weekend a number of positive Covid-19 cases led to the postponement of Dragons versus Cardiff Rugby, Ulster versus Leinster and Edinburgh versus Glasgow Warriors.
While on Thursday, it was confirmed that the game between Benetton and Zebre was also called off.
The Italian fixture was scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 2.
The games are set to be re-scheduled for the future, however, the number of available weeks are diminishing quickly, with a slew of prior matches already likely to be played during the Six Nations.
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Despite the disruption, there are still two fixtures set to go ahead on Saturday.
Scarlets kick off the New Year’s festivities when their host Ospreys on Saturday.
While Connacht face Munster at Sportground in Galway.
Connacht and Munster’s games in South Africa were postponed due to Covid along with the St Stephen’s Day fixture against Leinster.
Johann van Graan’s men have earned two wins from two in the Champions Cup this month, against Wasps and Castres.
Munster have won four out of five in the URC but sit seventh in the table, 10 points off leaders Leinster but with two games in hand.
Connacht are one place below after recording three wins in seven games.
The sides have already met once this season as Munster were 20-18 winners at Thomond Park in October.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend revealed he expects a very physical match.
“It wasn’t overly disruptive, it was just more disappointing,” the Australian said of Connacht’s Round Eight match against Ulster being postponed.
“We all understand it, we understand that people’s wellbeing is at stake here, so we all need to respect that and we do respect that.
“The hard bit is and the disappointing bit is that you work really hard during the week to get a team and all the detail in the team.”
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) December 31, 2021
Saturday, January 1
Scarlets v Ospreys Rugby
(Parc y Scarlets – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Ospreys by three points
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Scott Williams (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Tom Price, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Harri O’Connor, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Tom Rogers.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 Rhys Webb (captain) 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Griffiths, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Joe Hawkins, 23 Keiran Williams.
Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant referees: Ben Breakspear & Rhys Jones
TMO: Sean Brickell
Connacht v Munster
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
@rugby365com: Munster by five points
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Matthew Burke.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Tietie Tuimauga, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Matthew Devine, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Farrell.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Rory Scannell.
Referee: Chris Busby
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace & Eoghan Cross
TMO: Olly Hodges
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks