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URC, Round Eight - Teams and Predictions

BOXING DAY PREDICTIONS: RG Snyman’s decision to swap his red Munster jersey for the blue one of arch-rivals Leinster has added a lot of spice to Tuesday’s big Irish derby.

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Snyman’s decision to choose the Dublin side as his new home for next season hasn’t gone down particularly well with Limerick fans, especially after injuries robbed Munster of seeing him in his prime in the four years he has been with the side.

In that time, he has struggled with injuries, had a skin graft for a freak fire pit accident and played more for the Springboks than he did for Munster, only getting on the field 10 times for the Limerick side.

While Snyman was expected to leave Munster, it was the speed of the decision and the choice that surprised many and while he won’t be playing in Tuesday’s trip to Thomond Park when Leinster come calling, it has been dominating the Irish rugby discourse since last week.

Rivalry in sporting teams is nothing new, and while professional sport will see players move to teams that pay for their services, there still is a modicum of expectation that it won’t be to the biggest rival.

But the Snyman deal, with the news of how swiftly Leinster moved, has been greeted with surprise by Munster fans, where Snyman still hopes to play out the rest of his contract when he returns from a shoulder injury.

Even his coach Graham Rowntree was taken aback by the decision.

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“Yeah, I’m not going to lie, a huge surprise,” Rowntree admitted speaking to Irish media.

“Obviously, I wasn’t fully aware of where he was going, I knew there was chat of him going to Bath to see my old mate and his former coach Johann [van Graan]. There was chat about him going back to South Africa. But I was surprised, yeah.

“It’s a business, this, isn’t it? I sat down with him in the first week of November and said there wasn’t a contract for him, unfortunately. Within a couple of weeks, this news is upon us that he’s gone to Leinster.

“There we go, we deal with it, we row on. I have no doubt in his commitment to us to the end of the season. I’ve already seen that in the last couple of days in particular, I’ve no doubt about that commitment. It is what it is.”

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Leinster boss Leo Cullen underlined the influence of Snyman’s Springbok World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber in the discussions.

“I asked Jacques what would we think is the right fit and that’s how it comes about,” said Cullen. “I think people have conspiracy theories in their mind but it’s quite simple in many ways. You get offered a player of interest and I think you heard RG say himself, he loves it here in Ireland and has been here, what, three and a half years and would love to stay on.

“He wasn’t going to do it in Munster because of the way it has played out there, with Jean Kleyn there as well, and we just happened to be in the right place for a player who is keen to stay on this island.

“Obviously Jacques has worked with RG at South Africa and even prior to that as well with age group teams. We’ll see how it works in the future.

“That’s the thing he knows the guy so well. He’ll fit in well, we’re excited about it. It’s a while away yet. It’s different, it’s a slightly different dynamic.”

The derby match will be key for Munster, who sit in sixth spot, six points behind Leinster and a win would not only help the defending champions’ fortunes but give them confidence going into the new year.

Meanwhile, Shane Williams says the Scarlets will want to produce a big performance for their fans in the west Wales Boxing Day derby – but he’s predicting an Ospreys victory.

The Scarlets went down to a 7-23 defeat at home to Black Lion of Georgia in the EPCR Challenge Cup, leaving them with just two wins from their nine matches in all competitions this season.

So the pressure is on as they head into the URC showdown with their local rivals, with a 10,000-plus crowd expected in Llanelli for the Boxing Day derby in the west.

Ospreys and Wales wing legend Williams witnessed the Scarlets’ shock loss to Black Lion first-hand.

“I was at the game and they were booed off the field,” he said.

“I know how fickle the Scarlets fans can be. I used to be one! So I appreciate that.

“It was a dark horrible night with the weather and the rain and it was a dark horrible night for the Scarlets.

“The fans were really disappointed and rightly so. It was a really poor display.

“They went in front at the start, but after that, they were just second best in every facet of the game.

“The set-piece got absolutely annihilated, they were bullied in defence, they lost the physical battle and made far more errors than usual. It was disappointing to see.”

The 87-cap Williams continued: “It’s been very difficult for them this season. Their first couple of games were out in South Africa. They had two absolute drubbings and there’s nothing worse than starting off on the back foot.

“I think they have been very unlucky. Dwayne Peel has got a squad riddled with injuries. They are having to play youngsters with little experience at this level.

“Dwayne has taken a lot of it on himself. He has met with the supporters and promised they are going to give it their best shot.

“I know him very well. He is working his socks off down there and trying to keep the team and the fans happy.

“But it’s been a really tough season. They certainly don’t have confidence at the moment.

“They are under pressure. Dwayne and the Scarlets need a win.

“I think they will feel they owe the supporters a big performance at home.

“All Dwayne wants for Christmas is a victory in this game.

“But the Ospreys will be the clear favourites.

“They have got less injuries, with quality players who can come off the bench and make a difference. Their squad is stronger and squads win you games in this modern day.

“They look the more comfortable. I think they will be too strong, so I will go for an Ospreys victory at Parc y Scarlets.”

Turning to the other Boxing Day derby, between Cardiff and Dragons at the Arms Park, Williams is predicting a home win.

“I think Cardiff have played some really nice rugby this season,” he said.

“Tinus de Beer has been a good signing. He is playing well, pulling the strings.

“They have got a couple of good youngsters coming through, the likes of Cam Winnett at No.15 and Mackenzie Martin, who looks a decent prospect at No.8.

“It was a cracking game against Bath last weekend, with some brilliant rugby.

“The Dragons are an almost team at the moment. They do make a lot of errors, with silly penalties and mistakes – coach killers, I call them.

“The Cardiff squad is probably stronger. They just look a bit more organised.

“So, if I was a betting man, I would probably go for Cardiff. Never write the Dragons off, but Cardiff has to be the favourites. I think they will be a little bit too strong for the Dragons, so I see them winning that game.”

See below for Tuesday’s teams and predictions!

Tuesday, December 26:

Cardiff v Dragons
(Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Cardiff by 12 points.

Teams:

Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Mason Grady, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Mackenzie Martin, 7 James Botham, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Teddy Williams, 4 Rory Thornton, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Rhys Carre.
Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Rhys Litterick, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Lucas de la Rua, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Gabriel Hamer-Webb.

Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Cai Evans, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 George Nott, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Bradley Roberts, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 James Benjamin, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Will Reed, 23 Jared Rosser.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Wayne Davies (Wales)

Scarlets v Ospreys
(Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Ospreys by seven points.

Teams:

Scarlets: 15 Ioan Lloyd, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Joe Roberts, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Macleod (captain), 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 6 Sam Lousi, 5 Jac Price, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Sam Wainwright, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Kemsley Mathias.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Morgan Jones, 20 Ben Williams, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Jonathan Davies, 23 Ioan Nicholas.

Ospreys: 15 Jack Walsh, 14 Mat Protheroe, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Harri Deaves, 6 Rhys Davies, 5 Adam Beard (captain), 4 James Fender, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Ben Warren, 19 Morgan Morse, 20 Tristan Davies, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Dan Edwards, 23 Luke Morgan.

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Ben Breakspear (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Munster v Leinster
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)

Prediction

@rugby365com: Leinster by three points.

Teams:

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Tom Ahern, 5 Gavin Coombes, 4 Edwin Edogbo, 3 Oli Jager, 2 Diarmuid Barron (captain), 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Brian Gleeson, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Tony Butler, 23 Seán O’Brien

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Rob Russell, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Thomas Clarkson, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Liam Turner, 23 Will Connors.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Andrew Cole (Ireland)
TMO: Brian McNeice (Ireland)

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