Pro14, Rearranged fixtures - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: Champions Leinster get an opportunity to go back to the top of their conference in the Pro14 when they travel to Wales this weekend for a game against Scarlets that was rescheduled because of a prior coronavirus outbreak.
Leinster led Conference A in the early weeks of the competition but fellow Irish province Ulster were always hot on their heals. The postponed game and then the unexpected loss to Connacht a couple of rounds ago then pinned Leinster back while Ulster forged ahead, only for Leinster to play themselves back into a good position with a solid home win in the recent face-off between the arch-rivals in Dublin.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) January 29, 2021
Ulster still have a home game against Leinster to come at the Kingspan and will feel they are still strongly in the race for the top spot in the conference that will secure them a place in the final, but Leinster will increase the pressure if they win in Llanelli in the later of two games to be played on Saturday. The gap between first placed Ulster and second-placed Leinster is just one point.
In the earlier match, another rescheduled fixture, Johan van Graan’s Munster will look to consolidate their strong position at the top of Conference B by winning away against Benetton.
Munster currently enjoy an 11-point lead on second-placed Connacht after the same number of games (10) and should be expected to maintain their stranglehold when they visit Treviso as Benetton have been experiencing a poor campaign and have yet to win after nine games. Munster lost narrowly to Leinster last week but even with their top two scrumhalves away on Ireland national duty ahead of the Six Nations they should win with something to spare.
History suggests the Leinster game at Parc Y Scarlets is perhaps less easy to call. Although Scarlets have lost two in a row and will be trying to avoid the ignominy of suffering three successive defeats for the first time since late 2018, they have been a bogey team for Leinster when the Irish team visit them.
Scarlets won 23-21 when the sides last met in Llanelli in September 2018 and that followed a 10-all draw in March of the same year.
The big news for Leinster is that experienced prop Tadhg Furlong will make an eagerly awaited return after being out for almost a year with back, calf and hamstring problems.
We take a closer look at the weekend’s games!
Saturday, January 30:
Benetton v Munster
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 18.00 Italy time; 17:00 UK & Ireland time; 17.00 GMT)
It is top against bottom in Conference B as Munster look to bounce back from only their second Pro14 defeat of the campaign. Jordan Larmour’s late try condemned them to a 13-10 loss against Leinster but they will expect to return to winning ways this weekend. Benetton have lost all nine matches and are without a win at this venue since December 2019.
Munster will be without two scrumhalves who have joined up with Ireland’s Six Nations squad while Neil Cronin remains sidelined. As a result, Ethan Coughlan has returned to the squad as cover and Leinster Academy member Paddy Patterson has joined the province on a short-term basis.
@rugby365com: Munster by 12 points
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Marco Barbini (captain), 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Liam Coombes, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Roman Salanoa, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Josh Wycherley.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant Referees: Federico Vedovelli, Matteo Liperini
TMO: Alan Falzone
Scarlets v Leinster
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
A close encounter can be expected when Leinster face Scarlets in Llanelli based on the last two meetings, with the hosts winning 23-21 when they last met here in September 2018 which followed a 10-10 draw in March of the same year.
Scarlets come into the game on the back of two successive defeats against Cardiff Blues while Leinster were 13-10 winners at Munster last weekend and remain unbeaten on their travels since April 2019.
Experienced prop Tadhg Furlong will make his long-awaited return for Leinster after not playing for almost a year due to back, calf and hamstring problems.
@rugby365com: Leinster by three points.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Will Homer, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Paul Asquith.
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Ryan Baird, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Jamie Osborne.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans, Dan Jones
TMO: Jon Mason