Preview: Pro 14, Round 10
NEW DAWN: We stand at the new decade’s dawn and after counting up the numbers they show that Round Nine capped off the 2010s in serious style – with five sell-outs across six derby matches.
With the games played across three days from Boxing Day fans across Europe were clearly in the mood to play their part in those intense rivalries, with a total of 101,994 roaring on the derbies.
The sell-outs started on Boxing Day as the resurgent Dragons visited Cardiff Arms Park, coming away with a 12-16 loss in an absorbing contest, followed by Scarlets’ win over Ospreys, and continued on Friday as the Kingspan faithful watched five-star Ulster beat Connacht 35-3.
Saturday saw a full-to-the-brim, sun-drenched Stadio Monigo as Benetton edged Zebre 36-25, and a long sold-out Thomond Park as Leinster won once more thanks to one of the most punishing defensive efforts in recent memory.
Finally, not a sell-out but the best attended game of the round, Edinburgh’s 1872 Cup win over Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield had a record attendance of 27,437 – most of whom will not forget that magnificent match for many a year, or Bill Mata’s offload.
Across Round Nine the average attendance was 16,999 – and as Round 10 flies in on Friday with another four derbies on the card, remarkably just seven points now split the top six sides in Conference B, as the intensity ramps up only further in 2020.
Blues v Scarlets
Those four Round 10 derbies kick-off on Friday with a sumptuous pair of fixtures, the Welsh edition of which features Cardiff Blues at home again – this time with Scarlets knocking at the gates. This one is stacking up to be a cracker in that ultra-competitive Conference B, with Scarlets third on 27 points and Blues four points below in fifth.
Will a leapfrogging the order of the day? Possibly, but no quarter will be given at the Arms Park – Cardiff Blues have won their last four Pro14 matches while Scarlets’ only defeat in their last four in all competitions was to Dragons in Round Eight.
Ulster v Munster
Irish teams lay it all on the line in the Interpros and expect nothing less as Munster bid to become the first visiting side to win at the Kingspan in all competitions since October 2018. Andrew Conway inspired Munster to a narrow victory in November’s reverse fixture, sending his side top of Conference B and that is where they remain.
Home advantage proved decisive in this clash last season – Munster bulldozed to a 64-7 success at Thomond Park but Ulster bit back to win 19-12 on home soil. Sean Reidy’s industry will be key to the hosts – he has made the most tackles (124) in the Pro14.
Benetton v Glasgow Warriors
Two teams with similar Pro14 records go head-to-head in a cross-Conference clash in Italy. Both Benetton and Glasgow have claimed four wins and been beaten five times in the opening nine rounds of competition, although Benetton have seven bonus points to Glasgow’s three.
The Warriors have scored 27 tries to Benetton’s 25, so a close game seems in store. The Scottish side will be smarting from their 1872 Cup defeat to Edinburgh on Saturday, and will be equally desperate to avert defeat to Benetton in Italy for a second successive season.
Dragons v Ospreys
Can Ospreys turn the tide and pull a win from the fire of a Welsh derby? Eight defeats from nine Pro14 outings represents a miserable season so far for the Neath-Swansea side and news that Scott Williams will sit out this key clash won’t help matters.
They face a Dragons outfit doubtless buoyed by a dramatic 22-20 win over Welsh rivals Scarlets, sealed with a late Sam Davies drop goal in Round 8, although falling to defeat in Round 9. Dean Ryan’s men have won three games so far this season and sit fifth in Conference A, of which Ospreys are bottom.
Zebre v Cheetahs
The South African sides return to action in Round 10 and, after seeing their form dip slightly following a great start to the season, Cheetahs travel to Italy in high spirits after their 18-13 win over Ospreys last time out. Hawies Fourie’s side currently occupy a Finals Series place, sitting third in Conference A and have never lost to Zebre.
Michael Bradley’s men may have ended their 20-match winless run in Round 7 but two defeats to bitter rivals Benetton will sting and they will need to turn their poor home record around.
Leinster v Connacht
The superlatives keep coming for Leinster, after they ground their way to a ninth successive win this season with festive victory over Munster. The Conference A leaders still have a perfect record and can equal their best ever start to a campaign with victory on Saturday, their previous best coming when they won all 10 games to take the trophy during the 2001/02 season.
Connacht, meanwhile, are struggling for form having won just one of their last four Pro14 fixtures. They will also need to overcome history if they are to triumph over Leinster – having not beaten their opponents in Dublin since 2002.
Edinburgh v Southern Kings
Richard Cockerill’s men are in great form and full on confidence following their 29-19 1872 Cup win over Glasgow Warriors. They have only been beaten once in their last eight matches in all competitions and they’re unbeaten at Murrayfield this season. Enter Southern Kings.
The Kings have just one win to their name this campaign, in Round 6 at Ospreys, but recent history is on their side as they did win the most recent meeting of these sides in January.
We look at all the Round 10 action!
Friday, January 3
ULSTER v MUNSTER
(Kingspan Stadium – Kick-off: 19.35)
Ulster’s only defeat in their last seven matches in all tournaments was to Leinster at the RDS Arena in round 8 of the Pro14.
The Ulstermen’s most recent reversal at Kingspan Stadium was to Connacht in October 2018.
Munster have lost two of their last three Pro14 encounters, curiously both at home, to Edinburgh in Cork and Leinster in Limerick, however on the road in the Championship this season their only defeat was at Cheetahs in Round Three.
The last three matches between the two rivals have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Munster’s most recent success in Belfast was by a single point in October 2016.
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall,18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Chris Cloete.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
CARDIFF BLUES v SCARLETS
(Cardiff Arms Park – Kick-off: 19.35)
Cardiff Blues have won their last four Pro14 matches since their 23-33 defeat at home to Munster in Round Five.
The Blues only defeat in their last four home games at the Arms Park was to Leicester Tigers in the European Challenge Cup.
Scarlets only defeat in their last four matches in all competitions was 20-22 at Dragons in Round Eight of the Pro14.
Scarlets have won just once away from home in the Pro14 in their last twelve trips: 25-21 at Glasgow on 4 October.
Cardiff Blues won both encounters between the two sides last season but have never before won three in succession against their westerly rival in the Championship.
Scarlets most recent victory at the Arms Park was on New Year’s Eve 2017
Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Josh Navidi (captain), 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tevita Ratuva, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Phil Price, 17 Ryan Elias, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Paul Asquith.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Saturday, January 4
BENETTON v GLASGOW WARRIORS
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UK time)
Benetton’s four victories in the Pro14 this season have all come in the space of the last six rounds.
The Italian’s only loss in their last four home games in Pro14 was 28-31 to Cardiff Blues in Round Seven.
Benetton have won their last three fixtures against Scottish opponents.
Glasgow Warriors last six matches in all competitions have ended in two narrow wins and four defeats.
The Warriors have won just one of their last four away games in Pro14: 31-7 over Zebre in Parma in Round Six.
The Scotsmen have lost only one of their last thirty encounters with Italian opponents since 2011: 17-20 to Benetton in Treviso twelve months ago.
Benetton have beaten Glasgow on only three occasions in the Championship, twice in 2011 at Stadio Monigo and Firhill and last season in Treviso.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Ratuva Tavuyara, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Giovanni Pettinelli, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Marco Lazzaroni, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Pete Horne, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Bruce Flockhart, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Adam Nicol, 2 George Turner, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Glenn Bryce.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: John Mason (Wales)
ZEBRE v CHEETAHS
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 16.00; 17.00 SA time)
Zebre’s only victory in Pro14 this season was at Dragons in Round Seven.
The Italians have not been successful in Parma in the Pro14 since beating Edinburgh there in October 2018.
Cheetahs three-game losing run ended last time out with their 18-13 victory against Ospreys in Neath on 30 November.
Cheetahs record against Italian opponents in the Pro14 is won five, lost one, with the defeat being to Benetton in Treviso in January 2018.
The two sides have met on four previous occasions with Cheetahs taking the spoils every time.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 David Sisi, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 George Biagi, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Maxime Mbanda, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Craig Barry, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Marnus van der Merwe, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Ruan Pienaar, 23 Tian Schoeman.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Paul Larter (Scotland)
DRAGONS v OSPREYS
(Rodney Parade, Newport – Kick-off: 15.00)
Dragons have won just one of their last five Pro14 matches: 22-20 at home to Scarlets on 21 December.
Dragons only home defeat in their last five matches in all competitions was 12-39 to Zebre in Round Seven of the Pro14.
Ospreys are without a win since beating Benetton 24-20 at Liberty Stadium on 12 October.
Ospreys have lost all six away games they have played in all tournaments this season.
The Swansea based team have lost just one of their last fourteen Championship fixtures against Dragons since 2012: 22-23 at Rodney Parade 30 December 2018.
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Tom Griffiths, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Adam Warren.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 George North, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Dan Lydiate, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
LEINSTER v CONNACHT
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 17.30)
Leinster have won all nine matches they have played in the Pro14 this season, whilst the best start they have ever made to a campaign was by winning all ten games to take the trophy in season 2001/02.
The Leinstermen have lost only once at the RDS Arena in any competition since April 2018: 24-39 to Glasgow Warriors in April 2019.
Leinster’s most recent defeat at home to a fellow Irish province was to Munster at the Aviva Stadium in October 2014.
Connacht has won just one of their last four Pro14 fixtures, 24-12 at home to Southern Kings at the end of November.
Connacht has won twice away from home this season, at Dragons in round 3 and at Ospreys in Round Five.
Since the two provinces met in the 2016 final they have locked horns on seven occasions with Connacht’s only success being 47-10 in Galway in April 2018.
Connacht have not beaten Leinster in Dublin since 2002.
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 James Ryan, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Cian Kelleher.
Connacht: 15 Stephen Fitzgerald, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Tom Daly, 11 John Porch, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade (captain), 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Sean Masterson, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
EDINBURGH v SOUTHERN KINGS
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.45; 21.45 SA time)
Edinburgh’s only defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions was 16-20 to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on 21 December.
The Scotsmen are unbeaten in any competition at Murrayfield this season, gaining five wins and a draw against Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup.
Southern Kings only win so far this season was 16-14 against Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in Round Six.
The Kings’ record against Scottish opponents in the Championship is won two, lost five, with both victories being secured in Port Elizabeth.
The two sides have met on four previous occasions with Edinburgh winning the first three and Kings taking the most recent clash last January in South Africa.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Nick Haining, 7 John Barclay, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 WP Nel, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Mark Bennett.
Southern Kings: 15 Courtney Winnaar, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Howard Mnisi (captain), 11 Erich Cronje, 10 John-Thomas Jackson, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruaan Lerm, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 De-Jay Terblanche, 19 JC Astle, 20 Bobby de Wee, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Bader Pretorius, 23 Andell Loubser.
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Blain (Scotland), Jonny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Preview by @PRO14Official