Pro14 Rainbow Cup, Round One - teams and predictions
LATE CHANGES: The Pro14 Rainbow Cup begins on Friday and despite a late change in format, there are some exciting fixtures to savour in the inaugural competition.
Four South African teams had been due to form part of a 16-team format, but are unable to travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, there will be dual tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures and the ‘northern’ competition gets underway on Friday as Edinburgh host Zebre, while Ulster takes on Connacht at the Kingspan Stadium.
There are three matches on Saturday – with Benetton welcoming Glasgow Warriors to Treviso, while Ospreys and Cardiff Blues clash in Swansea, before a repeat of the Pro14 final when Leinster and Munster collide at the RDS Arena. Dragons and Scarlets meet at Rodney Parade on Sunday to close out the opening round.
Three innovative law variations have also been approved by World Rugby for use in the Rainbow Cup – red card replacements, captain’s challenge and goal-line drop-outs.
All the Round One teams and predictions!
Friday, April 23
Edinburgh v Zebre
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 20.15; 21.15 Italian time; 19.15 GMT)
Edinburgh and Zebre will be looking to secure a morale-boosting win after disappointing Pro14 campaigns.
The Scottish club flirted with a top-three place in Conference B until a defeat to Cardiff Blues in Round 16 ended their hopes, while Zebre finished bottom of Conference A with four wins from 16 games.
Edinburgh, who also suffered a heavy Heineken Champions Cup defeat at Racing 92 over Easter, have lost just one of their last five meetings with Zebre.
They should also be buoyed by Zebre’s record at this venue, with the Italians triumphing just once in six visits – in October 2016.
@rugby365com: Edinburgh by 12 points
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Matt Currie, 12 George Taylor, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Nathan Chamberlain, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Ben Muncaster, 7 Luke Crosbie (captain), 6 Mesu Kunavula, 5 Jamie Hodgson, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Patrick Harrison, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 WP Nel, 19 Viliame Mata, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Roan Frostwick, 22 Jack Blain, 23 Chris Dean.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Potu Junior Leavasa, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Giampietro Ribaldi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Antonio Rizzi.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ben Blain (Scotland), Ian Kenny (Scotland)
TMO: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Ulster v Connacht
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 GMT)
Ulster narrowly missed out on the Pro14 Final, but should have plenty of confidence to take into their Rainbow Cup campaign.
Fourteen wins from their 16 matches were not quite enough to pip eventual champions Leinster to top spot in Conference A, while Connacht also claimed runners-up spot in their group but suffered eight defeats.
Connacht ended the Pro14 season with three straight defeats so will be keen to stop the rot but they were beaten 32-19 when these teams last met in December at The Sportsground, while Ulster will also take confidence from winning seven of their last eight home games in the Pro14.
@rugby365com: Ulster by 16 points
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Michael Lowry,23 Will Addison.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Ben O’Donnell, 13 Sean O’Brien, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle (captain), 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Peter Sullivan.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Rob O’Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Saturday, April 24
Benetton v Glasgow
(Stadio de Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 UK time; 12.00 GMT)
Glasgow kicks off their Pro14 Rainbow Cup campaign with a trip to Benetton, the team they beat 46-25 in their final match four weeks ago.
Scotland scrumhalf George Horne streaked away to seal the crucial bonus-point win in the second half which ensured the Warriors finished fourth in Conference A.
The Scots have lost just one of their last 14 contests against Benetton since 2011 and have won on their previous four visits to Italy.
Benetton lost all 16 of their Pro14 matches and a couple of wins against Stade Francais and Agen in the European Challenge Cup represent their only victories this season.
@rugby365com: Glasgow by five points
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Riccardo Favretto, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Tomas Baravalle, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 Rufus McLean, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Kyle Steyn, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 George Horne, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Fraser Brown, 6 Fotu Lokotui, 5 Rob Harley, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Tom Lambert, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 Rory Darge, 21 Ali Price, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ollie Smith.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi, Matteo Liperini (both Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)
Ospreys v Cardiff
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
An all-Welsh battle takes place in Swansea on Saturday when Cardiff will be looking to avenge their 17-3 defeat by the Ospreys on New Year’s Day.
The Blues played with 14 men for 30 minutes having received three yellow cards, so Dai Young will be banging on the discipline drum ahead of the game at the Liberty Stadium.
Ospreys have won four of the last half a dozen meetings against Cardiff and six of the previous seven have been settled by single-digit margins of victory, so a close game could be in prospect.
Toby Booth’s side signed off their Pro14 campaign with last month’s sensational 24-19 comeback win at eventual champions Leinster which guaranteed third spot in Conference A.
@rugby365com: Ospreys by seven points
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Mat Protheroe, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 Matthew Aubrey, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Joe Hawkins, 23 Cai Evans.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Thomas, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Owen Lane, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 James Ratti, 7 Gwilym Bradley, 6 Alun Lawrence, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Kirby Myhill (captain), 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Dan Fish, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Mike English (both Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Leinster v Munster
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Less than a month after Leinster lifted the Pro14 title with a 16-6 win over Munster, the two Irish provinces collide again.
Leinster, who travel to La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals on May 2, made it four successive league victories as they came out on top against Munster for a sixth time on the trot.
Munster’s six-game winning run in the Pro14 was ended with that defeat and their last victory against Leinster came in December 2018 at Thomond Park.
The champions have also lost just one of their previous 14 fixtures against fellow Irish provinces.
@rugby365com: Leinster by 11 points
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Ryan Baird, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Ed Byrne.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 James Ryan, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Cormac Foley, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Tommy O’Brien.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Calvin Nash.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Eoghan Cross (both Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Sunday, April 25
Dragons v Scarlets
(Rodney Parade, Newport – Kick-off: 13.00; 12.00 GMT)
The final match of the opening weekend sees the Dragons and Scarlets meet for the second time this year, having gone up against each other on New Year’s Day when Scarlets came out on top 20-3 at Parc y Scarlets.
Two second-half tries from number eight Sione Kalamafoni and replacement outside-half Sam Costelow were enough to get Glenn Delaney’s side over the line.
Dan Jones and Costelow also kicked 10 points between them, while all the Dragons could muster was three points from the boot of Josh Lewis.
Scarlets were 41-20 winners on their last trip to Rodney Parade in August, while Dragons have lost their last five Pro14 matches at this venue.
@rugby365com: Dragons by five points
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jared Rosser, 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Greg Bateman.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Dan Babos, 22 Evan Lloyd, 23 Jack Dixon.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Iestyn Rees, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Morgan Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Alex Jeffries, 2 Ryan Elias (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Dafydd Hughes, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens, Gareth Newman (both Wales)
TMO: Dan Jones (Wales)