Pro14, Round three: Teams and Predictions
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: PRO14 rugby returns with a bang after a week absent of captivating Championship action, as each of the 12 contesting teams continue their bid for glory while the Conference tables gradually take shape.
With none of the sides involved in the previous weekend’s European finale, each will have benefited from the chance to rest and regroup, although the first instalment of the Six Nations’ return presents a challenge to teams from Ireland and Italy.
While there is still a long way to go in the 2020/21 season and no team can be written off at this stage, don’t expect any drama to be missing from Round 3, with four teams looking to extend their 100 per cent records, and another four looking to get off the mark.
Triple-defending champions Leinster are looking to extend their 21-match winning streak in the PRO14 against Zebre, while last season’s Conference B table-toppers Edinburgh are searching for their first win at home to 2015/16 champions Connacht.
The Round Three predictions and teams follow below …
Conference A (table)
Friday, October 23
Leinster v Zebre
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 19:35, 20:35 Italian time, 18.35 GMT)
Unbeaten at home in the Championship since Glasgow Warriors trumped them at the RDS Arena in April 2019, Leo Cullen’s men will surely be confident of strengthening their bid for a fourth-straight title with victory over winless Zebre in Dublin.
While the Irishmen have swept past Dragons 35-5 and Benetton 37-25 so far this campaign, Michael Bradley’s charges came unstuck at home to Dean Ryan’s Welshmen last time out, after losing their season opener at home to Cardiff Blues.
Having been defeated in all 13 previous meetings between the two sides – and having only scored two tries in six visits to the RDS – Zebre face an uphill task, but will be buoyed by the narrow, 3-0 scoreline they were on the wrong side of in their last clash against Leinster.
@rugby365com: Leinster by 25 points
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Tommy O’Brien, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Dan Leavy
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Tommaso Boni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Paolo Pescetto, 9 Nicolò Casilio, 8 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Lorenzo Masselli, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Alexandru Tarus, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Samuele Ortis, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Junior Laloifi
Referee: Craig Evans
Assistant Referees: Chris Busby, Rob O’Sullivan
TMO: Joy Neville
Benetton v Scarlets
(Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 20:15, 21:15 Italian Time, 18.15 GMT)
Itching to return to the sort of form that earned them a quarter-final spot in 2018/19, Benetton know they need a win soon if they are to avoid falling too far behind in the race for the Final Series.
Defeats against last season’s finalists Ulster and Leinster produced plenty of positives for coach Kieran Crowley, and the Treviso-based outfit will be hoping to get the better of another PRO14 heavyweight this time out, which would provide them with their first win at Stadio Monigo since December.
Scarlets have similarly lost two from two, and the 2016/17 champions are aiming for their first win in three in Italy – having lost on both previous occasions to Benetton in February 2018 and February 2019.
@rugby365com: Scarlets by five points
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Alberto Sgarbi, 6 Federico Ruzza, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Giovanni Pettinelli, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Luca Petrozzi, 22 Angelo Esposito, 23 Leonardo Sarto
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Tevita Ratuva, 4 Sione Kalamafoni, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Will Homer, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Paul Asquith
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant Referees: Manuel Bottino, Andrea Spadoni
TMO: Alan Falzone
Conference B (table)
Saturday, October 24
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 17:30, 16.30 GMT)
After finishing bottom of Conference A last year, Ospreys looked back towards their best with an impressive 25-10 win at Edinburgh in Round 1, before falling 24-12 at home to Ulster a week later.
Toby Booth’s men will be looking to prove their last performance was a mere blip, with what would be their first victory at the Liberty Stadium in over 12 months – their last home victory coming against Benetton last October.
Warriors impressed last time out against Scarlets to earn their first victory, and will be confident of doubling their tally having won their last four encounters against the Swansea-based side, since February 2017.
@rugby365com: Glasgow Warriors by seven points
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Mat Protheroe, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 8 James King, 7 Dan Lydiate (captain), 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Rhodri Jones,
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Will Griffiths, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Harri Morgan, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Ratu Tagive, 10 Pete Horne, 9 Jamie Dobie; 8 TJ Ioane, 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Richie Gray, 4 Hamish Bain, 3 D’arcy Rae, 2 George Turner, 1 Aki Seiuli,
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Fotu Lokotui, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Niko Matawalu
Referee: George Clancy
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse, Dan Jones
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
Sunday, October 25
Ulster v Dragons
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 15.00, 14.00 GMT)
Keen to go one better than their PRO14 exploits last time out and claim the coveted trophy for the first time in 15 years, Ulster have hit the ground running so far and will be looking to extend an unbeaten record at the Kingspan that stretches back to October 2018.
While Dan McFarland’s side have two wins from two in 2020/21, Dragons are searching for successive Championship wins for the first time since November 2016, having beaten Zebre 26-18 in Round 2.
And although Dean Ryan’s side were among the most improved sides throughout 2019/20, they have won just one match on the road since the start of last season and haven’t beaten Ulster in Belfast for over 12 years.
@rugby365com: Ulster by 10 points
Ulster: 15 Rob Lyttle, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Michael Lowry
Dragons: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joseph Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Jamie Roberts
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby
TMO: Olly Hodges
Edinburgh v Connacht
(BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Edinburgh’s last-gasp, 25-23 defeat to Munster in Round 2 sealed a fourth successive Championship defeat for the Scotsmen, their worst run in the competition since April 2017.
Richard Cockerill’s men need to find form quickly if they are going to emulate their run to the semi-finals last season, and come up against a Connacht side who have won just once away from home in any competition since last November.
While the Galway-based side’s most recent win at BT Murrayfield was in the 2016 PRO14 final against Leinster, Connacht impressed with 28-24 victory over Glasgow Warriors in Round 1, before going down 29-7 away at Cardiff Blues.
@rugby365com: Edinburgh by five points
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Blain, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Jamie Farndale, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nic Groom (c), 8 Mesu Kunavula, 7 Ally Miller, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 WP Nel, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 George Taylor
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Sammy Arnold, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Abraham Papali’i, 7 Jarrad Butler (c), 6 Paul Boyle, 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 Cian Prendergast, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Peter Robb, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran
Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant Referees: Ben Blain, David Sutherland
TMO: Andrew McMenemy
Monday, October 26
Munster v Cardiff Blues
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 GMT)
The final contest of Round 3 sees the current Conference B table-toppers battle it out in Limerick, with Munster hoping to build on wins over Scarlets and Edinburgh and maintain their hopes of clinching a fourth Championship title on the inaugural Monday Night Rugby.
Johann van Graan’s side are in a rich vein of form having only lost twice in their last eight PRO14 encounters – both to Leinster – while visitors Cardiff Blues haven’t won away to an Irish province since September 2017.
But Blues impressively saw off Connacht last time out after beating Zebre in Round 1,and will be desperate to seal their first win at Thomond Park in all tournaments, having lost on all eight previous visits.
@rugby365com: Munster by 12 points
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Damian de Allende
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Liam Williams (captain), 8 Olly Robinson, 7 James Botham, 6 James Ratti, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Dimitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Sam Moore, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Garyn Smith
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy, Eoghan Cross
TMO: Brian MacNeice