Pro14, Round 14 - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: There are two blockbuster matches in Ireland in Round 14 which could determine the teams who will contest the Pro14 final.
A mouth-watering weekend gets underway on Friday when Conference B leaders Munster host nearest rivals Connacht knowing a win should book their place in the end-of-season showpiece.
There is another thriller in Conference A on Saturday when second-placed Ulster have home advantage as they take on defending champions Leinster, who are currently six points clear at the summit and could also earn a final berth with a bonus-point win, depending on any bonus points collected by their hosts.
Ospreys host Dragons at the same time in an all-Welsh clash while the early game on Saturday sees Zebre take on Glasgow Warriors at home and Benetton go to Edinburgh on Sunday.
There are five matches scheduled this weekend, with one of the Round 14 fixtures having already taken place in January when Cardiff Blues enjoyed a 13-10 victory at Scarlets.
We take a closer look at all the Round 14 matches!
Friday, March 5:
Munster v Connacht
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
Connacht go into this crucial Conference B showdown on the back of three straight victories, but they will need to improve after being given an almighty scare by Benetton last week, when Bundee Aki’s late try avoided a shock defeat.
Munster have also won three in a row to leave them on the brink of booking their place in the final and have recent history on their side having won the last six meetings with Connacht.
They were 20-11 winners in Cardiff last weekend when Billy Holland came off the bench to become their second most-capped player, with the 35-year-old announcing on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the season.
@rugby365com: Munster by 12 points.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 John Ryan, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Damien de Allende.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Jarrad Butler (captain), 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Sean O’Brien, 23 Alex Wootton.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Saturday, March 6:
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 14.00; 13:00 UK time; 13.00 GMT)
The match in Parma could prove important in terms of the final standings in Conference A with fourth-placed Zebre just a point above the Warriors having played a game more.
Zebre climbed off the bottom and up two places thanks to a 26-15 victory over Dragons, with back-rowers Renato Giammarioli and Lorenzo Masselli both crossing for tries while Paolo Pescetto kicked 13 points.
Glasgow went down 21-40 at Leinster, not helped by having Adam Hastings sent off, but they have won all 16 previous meetings with Zebre and their last four against Italian opposition.
@rugby365com: Glasgow by four points.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Tommaso Boni (c), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Paolo Pescetto, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Potu Junior Leavasa, 6 Lorenzo Masselli, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Samuele Ortis, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Paolo Buonfiglio, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Charles Alaimalo, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Gabriele Di Giulio
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Rufus McLean, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Cole Forbes, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 Jamie Dobie, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Gregor Brown, 5 Hamish Bain, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 James Scott, 20 Leone Nakarawa, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Nick Grigg
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini, Clara Munarini
TMO: Stefano Pennè
Ospreys v Dragons
(The Brewery Field, Bridgend – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
Dragons are still without a win in 2021 and victory in all-Welsh affair would be a good time to stop a poor run of form.
The defeat at the hands of Zebre last week was their sixth in a row and they were hampered by first-half yellow cards shown to Ben Fry and Ross Moriarty, although they at least managed two tries from Jonah Holmes after the break.
Ospreys were unable to build on a first-minute try from Keeran Giles as they lost 7-21 against Ulster so will be looking to get back to winning ways after four straight victories prior to that.
@rugby365com: Ospreys by eight points.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Dewi Cross
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Harrison Keddie (captain), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Jordan Williams
Referee: Craig Evans
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens, Dan Jones
TMO: Rhys Thomas
Ulster v Leinster
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
Leinster will have one foot in the final if they can come out on top in this crunch clash.
The leaders remained firmly in control of Conference A last weekend as they secured a 40-21 bonus-point win at home to Glasgow while Ulster were unable to pick up the extra point against the Ospreys.
Leinster came out on top 24-12 when these teams met at the RDS Arena in January, scoring all four tries in the match, but Ulster have won their last 17 Pro14 fixtures at the Kingspan Stadium including a 14-13 win on Leinster’s last visit in April 2019.
@rugby365com: Ulster by four points.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy (captain), 6 Nick Timoney, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Cormac Izuchukwu, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Rob Lyttle
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Scott Penny, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Ed Byrne
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Thomas Clarkson, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Jamie Osborne, 23 Jack Dunne
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant Referees: Seán Gallagher, Robert O’Sullivan
TMO: Olly Hodges
Sunday, March 7:
Edinburgh v Benetton
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 15:15; 15.15 GMT)
Conference B’s bottom two teams meet in the Scottish capital and Benetton will feel this is a good chance to pick up a first win of the season at the 13th time of asking.
Edoardo Padovani’s late penalty looked to have finally broken their duck against Connacht last Friday but they could not hold on as a last-gasp try condemned Benetton to a cruel 17-19 defeat.
Edinburgh’s last win was against Italian opposition, having beaten Zebre 26-10 in January, but they will hope it is third time lucky on home soil after suffering back-to-back defeats against Munster and Scarlets since their Italy trip.
@rugby365com: Edinburgh by three points.
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Jack Blain, 13 James Johnstone, 12 George Taylor, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Nathan Chamberlain, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Ally Miller, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Magnus Bradbury, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Mesu Kunavula, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Charlie Savala, 23 Mark Bennett
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Davide Ruggeri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Ivan Nemer, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Tomas Baravalle, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Ratuva Tavuyara
Referee: Sam Grove-White
Assistant Referees: Ben Blain, Ian Kenny
TMO: Hollie Davidson