URC rescheduled - teams and predictions
PREVIEW: A tasty United Rugby Championship derby lies ahead in Wales, the rescheduled Round Eight fixture between Ospreys and Dragons on Sunday.
Ospreys can make it a third consecutive win as they welcome Dragons to Swansea.
The home side is looking to secure maximum points, as they look to close the gap between Welsh Shield leaders Scarlets.
* Meanwhile, on Friday, Zebre will travel to Cardiff with confidence after securing their first win of the season against the Dragons last weekend.
Cardiff looks to bounce back with a home win over the Italian side.
Seb Davies will make his 100th first team appearance for Cardiff at Arms Park for the final home game of the season.
The lock, who progressed through the club’s pathway system and made his first team debut in 2014, links up with Matthew Screech in the second row as the Blue and Blacks target a return to winning ways.
The rescheduled encounter will also see prop Rhys Carré earn his 50th cap for the club, and he is joined by Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip in the front row.
Josh Navidi continues as captain in an unchanged back row, with Rhys Priestland and Matthew Morgan coming into the backline to replace the injured Jarrod Evans and Hallam Amos.
“First of all, we must congratulate Seb and Rhys for reaching these milestones,” Cardiff Director of Rugby Dai Young said.
“They have enjoyed some good individual form in recent weeks and it would be great if they could celebrate with a win.
“We have been very disappointed with our results and performances in the last month or so and we are determined to get back to winning ways in our final home game of the season.
“It is vitally important to us that we put in the required performance to get a result and say thank you to our fans for their support this season.
“We certainly won’t be taking Zebre lightly, they had a good win last week and have run some very good teams close so we will need to execute our game-plan and be accurate in all areas of the pitch and for 80 minutes.
“The injuries have begun to mount after so many consecutive weeks of rugby, on the back of so few, but we are all focussed on a positive end to the season and it also gives some of our younger players further opportunities.”
Owen Lane’s five tries rank him joint third among the Welsh regions, behind the Scarlets’ Johnny McNicholl (eight) and Rhys Webb of the Ospreys (seven). Lloyd Williams is one try further back on four.
Only four sides have conceded fewer penalties than Cardiff (171), who have the URC’s best record for penalties given away in attack (43). That said, the Blue and Blacks have been shown a league-high 12 yellow cards
Zebre Parma may look to the maul as an area where they could have the edge over Cardiff, boasting an 89.77 percent rate of mauls won compared to their hosts’ 81.43 percent – the lowest in the URC.
The Italians also have a marginally better record when it comes to the scrum, holding a 95.7 percent success rate to the Blue and Blacks’ 94.69 percent.
* Meanwhile, Ospreys have the best goal-kicking accuracy in the URC – and by some distance. Their success rate of 90.28 percent tops the charts ahead of Leinster on 83.91 percent. The Dragons are fourth on that list on 81.63 percent.
No team has conceded fewer penalties than the Ospreys’ 155 in the URC this season while the Swansea region have specialised in punishing the indiscipline of their opponents – both Stephen Myler (18) and Gareth Anscombe (17) rank in the top 5 for penalties kicked during the campaign.
The Dragons do not give up possession easily and have conceded fewer turnovers than anyone else in the URC this term with 182.
The Ospreys are not far behind, however, sitting third on 188.
Dean Ryan’s side is the most efficient tacklers among the Welsh regions, boasting a success rate of 88.77 percent, although the Ospreys are again snapping at their heels with their own record of 88.75 percent.
The weekend’s teams and predictions are below …
Friday, May 6
Cardiff v Zebre
(Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 18.35 GMT)
@rugby365com: Cardiff by 15 points
Cardiff: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Ratti, 7 Josh Navidi (captain), 6 James Botham, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Mason Grady.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Junior Laloifi, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Franco Smith Jr, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Timothy O’Malley, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Luca Andreani, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Ion Neculai, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Juan Pitinari, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Gabriele Venditti, 20 Ross Vincent, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Lorenzo Pani.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Carwyn Williams (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Sunday, May 8
Ospreys v Dragons
(Swansea Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Ospreys by eight points
Ospreys: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Reuben Morgan Williams, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Luke Morgan.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Josh Lewis, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Will Reed, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harri Keddie (captain), 5 Ben Carter, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 James Benjamin, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gareth Newman (Wales), Jason Bessant (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)