Pro14, Round Seven - Teams and Predictions
THICK AND FAST: The action is coming thick and fast in the Pro14 as this weekend sees five more games take place over two days, with spectacular tries and bucket loads of drama guaranteed.
Three teams remain a cut above the rest so far in the 2020/21 campaign, with reigning champions Leinster, Ulster and Munster all yet to taste defeat after hitting the ground running.
Round Seven begins in Swansea where Ospreys entertain Benetton in the lunchtime kick-off, with both teams looking to bounce back from disappointing defeats last time out. We then head to Parma for the weekend’s second game as Zebre attempt to put their heavy defeat to Ulster behind them when they lock horns with Connacht at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Following that mouth-watering starter, the main course on Sunday will centre around last season’s Finalists as Leinster and Ulster bid to continue their perfect starts to the campaign. Defending champions Leinster are on the verge of breaking another record, with the Irish province just one bonus-point win away from matching the Championship best of seven.
Only Cardiff Blues stand in the way of Leo Cullen’s men etching their name into the history books once again, with the Welsh region going into the contest off the back of a victory over Benetton.
Ulster will then bring Sunday’s drama to a close as Dan McFarland’s side strive to keep pace with Leinster at the top of Conference A with their seventh consecutive victory. Monday completes the round in style as Munster put their unbeaten record of five games and five wins on the line against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium. The visitors are riding high at the summit of Conference B and with the Blues and Scarlets facing tough tests this weekend, the Irish province could extend their lead with another triumph.
We take a closer look at all Round Seven’s matches!
Sunday, November 22:
Ospreys v Benetton
(St Helen’s, Swansea – Kick-off: 13.45; 13.45 GMT; 14.45 Italy time)
Ospreys will raise the curtain on Round Seven when they welcome Benetton to Swansea on Sunday, with both teams in desperate need of the points after losing last time out.
The hosts currently sit third in Conference A with two victories to their name but Toby Booth’s side have now slipped to defeats in their last three contests in the Pro14.
Munster, Leinster and Zebre have all got the better of the Welsh region since they beat Glasgow Warriors in Round Three and they will want to avoid falling further behind the Conference A pacesetters.
Ospreys will take encouragement from their record at St Helen’s, though, where they have played ten previous Pro14 games and only lost twice – to Connacht in 2003 and Scarlets in 2004.
It will be Benetton’s first visit to the venue and with the last six meetings between these two sides won by the home team on the day, the outlook does not look good for the Italians.
Prediction: Ospreys by five points.
Ospreys: 15 Mat Protheroe, 14 George North, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dan Lydiate (captain), 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Sam Cross, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Josh Thomas.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Cherif Traore.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Alberto Sgarbi, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant Referees: Aled Evans, Ben Breakspear
TMO: Sean Brickell
Zebre v Connacht
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 15.30; 14:30 UK & Ireland time; 14.30 GMT)
Zebre will be hoping to prove that their 14-57 humbling by title-chasing Ulster last time out was a mere blip, having shown plenty of encouraging signs in a narrow defeat at Scarlets and a home win against Ospreys in their two previous games.
Their success against the Welshmen earlier this month marks their only victory this season so far, but Michael Bradley’s side will be buoyed by the fact that their most recent win over an Irish province was against their next opponents Connacht, in Galway in February 2018.
Connacht were somewhat unfortunate to end up on the losing side of a closely-fought 20-14 battle with Scarlets in Round Six, and will be itching to get back to winning ways and earn successive Championship away victories for the first time in over a year.
The 2015/16 champions have lost just twice in seven previous visits to the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, and will be hoping for a more convincing scoreline than the 6-5 win they managed on their last trip to Parma, to keep them in the running for a Final Series place.
Prediction: Connacht by two points.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 David Sisi, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Lorenzo Masselli, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Alexandru Tarus, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Massimo Ceciliani, 20 Nicolò Casilio, 21 Paolo Pescetto, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Sammy Arnold, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Colm Reilly, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Sean Masterson, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Eoghan Masterson, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Peter Sullivan.
Referee: Dan Jones
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Matteo Liperini
TMO: Stefano Penne
Leinster v Cardiff Blues
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
It was a case of more of the same for Leinster as they thumped Edinburgh 50-10 in Round Six to extend their perfect start to the season and overall unbeaten run in the Pro14 to 25 matches.
The next record in their sights? Equalling the Championship best of seven bonus-point victories in succession, which they would achieve with a five-point win over Cardiff Blues.
Indeed, the omens are with Leo Cullen’s side, who have won their last 14 Pro14 encounters with the Welsh outfit since losing 3-11 all the way back in February 2011.
John Mulvihill’s Blues will be encouraged though by how they performed against Benetton, where they ended a run of three successive defeats with an impressive victory.
Despite their difficult run the Blues are now second in a very tight Conference B and can think about looking upwards to Munster with an improved run from now.
Those expecting a Leinster demolition may also be surprised to hear that the Blues have only been beaten by the Irish province by one point in three of their last five clashes – another close encounter could very well be in the offing.
Prediction: Leinster by six points.
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Ryan Baird, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jack Dunne, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Michael Silvester, 23 Scott Penny.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evams, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Alun Lawrence, 6 James Ratti, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Dimitri Arhip, 2 Ethan Lewis, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Iestyn Harris, 17 Brad Theyer, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Gwilym Bradley, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Hallam Amos.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant Referees: George Clancy, Peter Martin
TMO: Ollie Hodges
Ulster v Scarlets
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Two of the form sides will go head-to-head at Kingspan on Sunday, as Ulster welcome Scarlets to Belfast with both sides looking to maintain their respective winning streaks.
Dan McFarland’s side are chasing a seventh successive Pro14 victory, something they haven’t achieved since way back in 2012, and the signs are positive with a strong home record in this fixture in years gone by.
Scarlets have emerged victorious just once in their last 13 visits to Kingspan, with the solitary victory coming in a 21-20 success back in 2016, but with back-to-back wins to their name heading into this one, Glenn Delaney’s side will fancy their chances of claiming the points.
With a 3-6 defeat to Edinburgh their only loss in four games, the Welsh side have recovered from a sluggish start to the season with victories over Benetton, Zebre and Connacht in the past month with Ryan Conbeer helping himself to three tries in his last two matches.
That pales into comparison compared to Ulster’s Marcell Coetzee, who grabbed four in 80 minutes as Zebre were dispatched 57-14 on Monday, and with eight tries to his name already this season, the visitors will have to find a way to tame the South African this weekend.
Prediction: Ulster by seven points.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Scarlets: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Danny Drake, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jac Price, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Will Homer, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby
TMO: Brian MacNeice
Monday, November 23:
Glasgow Warriors v Munster
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 20.15; 20.15 GMT)
Round Seven concludes with an intriguing contest between two sides who have not met in the Pro14 for more than two years.
Unbeaten Munster make the trip to Scotstoun full of confidence having won each of their opening five fixtures, which represents their best start to a campaign since 2008.
Danny Wilson’s Warriors, on the other hand, have lost their last three games and were well beaten by Ulster on their most recent outing. But the history of this fixture suggests it could closer than the form book would imply.
Munster have not always enjoyed their visits to Scotstoun over the years, with just two wins to their name in Glasgow, while the last five meetings between these two teams have all been won by the home side on the day.
Prediction: Munster by four points.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Robbie Fergusson, 11 Robbie Nairn, 10 Pete Horne, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Thomas Ioane, 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Rob Harley, 4 Lewis Bean, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Hamish Bain, 20 Fotu Lokotui, 21 Caleb Korteweg, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Niko Matawalu.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Rory Scannell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Jack O’Sullivan, 6 Fineen Wycherley, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Jack O’Donoghue, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Dan Goggin.
Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant Referees: Ben Blain, Fin Brown
TMO: Sam Grove-White