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This weekend sees the start of the RaboDirect Pro12 for the 2012/2013 season.  In what could arguably be the pick of the fixtures Edinburgh, last year’s Heineken Cup semi-finalists, face Munster. Defending champions The Ospreys will be away to Treviso, while Leinster, consistently Ireland’s best team for the last few years, travel to face Llanelli Scarlets.

Italian team Zebre were a franchise that was created at the end of the last season as Aironi were thrown out the completion following financial problems.

Looking at the players playing for Zebre it looks as if this has just been a renaming exercise as many of the players in their squad turned out for Aironi last year.

Zebre kick off their campaign away to Newport Gwent Dragons.

Full list of fixtures
Date Kick off Time (SA time) Teams Venue
Fri 31 Aug 20.00 Dragons v Zebre Rodney Parade
Fri 31 Aug 20.05 Ulster v Glasgow Warriors Ravenhill
Fri 31 Aug 21.05 Benetton Treviso v Ospreys Stadio di Monigo
Sat 1 Sep 18.00 Connacht v Cardiff Blues Sportsground
Sat 1 Sep 18.30 Scarlets v Leinster Parc y Scarlets
Sat 1 Sep 21.00 Edinburgh v Munster Murrayfield

 

Predictions

Dragons vs Zebre

The first game is hard to call as this will Zebre’s first game of the Pro12 while the Dragons fared the worst out of the Welsh regions in last year’s competition. 

The Dragons come into the game without a series of injured players, most notably their captain Lewis Evans. However their backline will be bolstered by recently signed Welsh internationals Dan Evans and Tom Prydie. Up front they will also be fielding impressive Welsh duo Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate.

The quality of these players added to home ground advantage should see Dragons come away with a fairly comfortable win.

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones,  9 Wayne Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Jevon Groves, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Andrew Coombes, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price

 Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Adam Jones, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Lewis Robling, 23 Ashley Smith

Zebre: 15 Sinoti Sinot, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti,  13 Roberto Quartaroli,  12 Gonzalo Garcia (Captain),  11 Samuele Pace, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi,  8 Filippo Cristiano, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Nicola Cattina, 5 Emiliano Caffini,  4 Quintin Geldenhuys,  3 David Ryan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Salvatore Perugini
Replacements:  16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luciano Leisbon, 19 Filippo Cazzola,  20 Filippo Ferrarini, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Ruggero Trevisan

 

Ulster vs Glasgow Warriors

The Warriors team looks quite a strong one, on paper, particularly when one considers their bench. However it won’t be easy against Ulster, especially at Ravenhill.  The last time Glasgow won at Ravenhill was back in December 2009. 

However, I am not sure that history will play a role in the outcome of this match. Ulster will miss the presence of talisman Ruan Pienaar, currently on Springbok duty. Furthermore, their depth at loose forward is bound to be tested following the departure of the dependable Pedrie Wannenburg as well as the fact that Irish international hard man Stephen Ferris still looks to be out with injury.

Glasgow will have to come to terms with life without giant star lock Richie Grey, now plying his trade in England. However, Tom Ryder made the Pro12 team of the year last season and should do a good job for his team.  Fellow lock, and captain, Allistair Kellock will have a big role to play on Friday night and much will depend on how he performs. In the past he has tended to lose focus and get involved in off the ball niggle, not something you want to see from your captain. If he can rein these tendencies in then he should put a good performance and lead from the front.

Initial thoughts were that Ulster would win a close game, due to an impressive run of pre-season results and home ground advantage. However, on closer inspection of the teams it would seem that Ulster may not be that strong at this stage. Glasgow may just  win a close game.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 R Herring, 1 Callum Black

Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Tom Court, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Niall O’Connor, 23 Darren Cave

Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Finlay Gillies, 1 Gordon Reid

Replacements:  16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Ryan Grant, 19 James Eddie, 20 John Barclay, 22 Chris Cusiter, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Horne

 

Benneton Treviso vs Ospreys

Former Springbok flyhalf Franco Smith’s Treviso have never beaten the Ospreys in their previous six Pro12 encounters, with the best result being a solitary draw. This should not change and while Treviso may make it hard in the beginning and the weather could play a role the Ospreys should win comfortably in the end with Dan Biggar dictating matters at flyhalf.

Treviso: 15 Kristopher Burton, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori,, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain), 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 2 Enrico Ceccato, 1 Alberto De Marchi

Replacements:  16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Marco Filippucci, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Brendan Williams

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 James King, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington

Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Joe Bearman, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Grabham

 

Connacht vs Cardiff Blues

Connacht may have ended the lowest of the Irish teams in last year’s competition but they have been steadily improving and managed to beat their more fancied ‘neighbours’ Ulster last season. However, in the 18 times that Connacht  have played the Blues they have only won twice and drawn twice.

Expect the Blues to still have too much class and win by a fair margin.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (Captain), 14 Tiernan O’Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffing, 12 Mata Fifita, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo , 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8  George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O’Connor, 6  John Muldoon,  4  Michael Swift ,  3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke , 1 Denis Buckley

Replacements:  16 Adrian Flavin , 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Dave Gannon, 20          Willie Faloon, 21 David Moore, 22  Matthew Jarvis, 23 Robbie Henshaw 

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Gareth Davies, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Andries Pretorius (captain), 7 Josh Navidi,  6 Rory Watts- Jones,  5 James Down, 4 Robin Copeland, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Andi Kyriacou,1 Thomas Davies

Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Beniot Borrust, 18 Nathan Trevett, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Cory Allen, 23 Tom Williams, 24 Owen Williams

 

Scarlets vs Leinster

The Scarlets may be at home to Leinster and have some very talented Welsh Internationals in their team but one wonders whether they will be good enough to topple the top Irish team who are reigning Heineken Cup champions.

The Leinster match day squad contains highly rated hooker Richardt Strauss and  Kiwi flyer Isa Nacewa, but there is no place for former Stormers lock Quin Roux. However, Leinster will miss tough international flanker Sean O’Brian who is still recovering from hip operations and there are also far fewer Irish Internationals in the Leinster team than initially expected

Prior to the team announcements one would have tipped Leinster to win by plenty, but now they may just win a close game. This one could quite easily go the other way too.

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Josh Turnbull,  6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 George Earle, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rhodri Jones

Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Phil John, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jonathan Davies

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Leo Auva’a, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe

Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Collie O’Shea, 23 Darren Hudson

 

Edinburgh vs Munster

The last tie of the weekend may prove to be one of the best with Edinburgh at home to Munster. Edinburgh had a disappointing start to their pre-season losing heavily to Newcastle (who were relegated from the Premiership last season), but there were many first choice players missing from that game and they have recruited quite strongly on the player and coach front.

It will be interesting to see how the Edinburgh forwards, now coached by Neil Back, fare against a strong Munster pack.  Edinburgh’s backline has the ability to play attractive rugby should the forwards provide a decent platform.

This one is hard to call but will go with an Edinburgh win, but not by much as although they boast a very strong starting line-up and strong bench front row it remains to be seen how they will get by without former stalwarts,  scrumhalf Mike Blair who moved to France, and now retired fullback Chris Paterson.

Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones,  13 Nic da Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 9 Richie Rees,  8 Stuart McInally, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 David Denton, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 John Yapp

Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Dimitri Basilaia, 21 Chris Leck , 22 Gregor Hunter,  23 John Houston

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (captain),  13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11  Luke O’Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan , 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Paddy Butler,  5 Billy Holland,  4 Donncha  O’Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley,  1 Wian du Preez

 Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Barry O’Mahony, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Ivan Dineen

18 Responses to RaboDirect Pro12 : Round one

  • 1

    So much for predictions 1/3 so far, 2 lessons – don’t go for reputation over form and stick with first ideas.

  • 2

    Dragons 37 – 6 Zebre, Ulster 18- 10 Glasgow, Treviso 12 – 6 Ospreys – so thats 3 wins out of 3 for the home teams.

  • 3

    @ JanMurrayBok:If you want to know how to predict, just come and see me. Just look at my ‘Bru to see how good I am at picking

  • 5

    3 @ Just For Kicks:
    Ha ok then I’ll consult the pro next time, you can give me your ideas for next weekend’s games then. By the way rule 3 I see now is ‘when in doubt go for the home side’ Happy-Grin

  • 6

    By the way JFK enjoy your trip to Newlands this time. Was just wondering now that you are no longer a Province supporter will you be sporting your new team’s top or did GBS not manage to get his pink one down to you for you to borrow on time Happy-Grin

  • 7

    6 @ JanMurrayBok:
    Hey, watchit….

    I had a pink undie once…. it was a white one which landed in the wash with some red clothes!

    Hehehe

  • 8

    6 @ JanMurrayBok:Jersey never arrived, and I checked the post this morning. No jersey, no support. I shall remain independent and highly critical!

  • 9

    7 @ grootblouBokJan:
    Too much information there GBS, don’t really want to know about your underwear fettishes, was it a lacy one too? Pondering Nothing wrong with those pink jerseys, got a mate of mine who was over in SA for holiday this year to bring one back for me… for my wife Happy-Grin

  • 10

    9 @ JanMurrayBok:You are an evil man, to force your wife out in public in one of those pink straight jackets!

  • 11

    Most amazing scene, the mens 1500m race at the olympics. Hassan racing 3 laps behind the rest, has had a standing ovation for two laps. Thats true olympic spirit. Well done to him

  • 12

    So, what’s the predictions for the 2 Currie Cup games today?

  • 14

    13 @ Just For Kicks:
    Same here… Sharks by 8, Blue Bulls by 7

    … but then again I had the Golden Lions by 15, and we know how that one panned out….

  • 15

    10 @ Just For Kicks:
    No really there is nothing wrong with it, its a nice jumper, she likes it.

  • 16

    Munster beat Edinburgh in the last Pro12 game of the weekend, final score Edinburgh 18- 23 Munster, hattrick of tries to man of the match Tim Visser for Edinburgh and 2 tries for Munster. Problem was none of Edinburghs tries were converted, all scored quite far out wide, both Munsters tries scored under the posts. Apart from conceeding penalty, which Munster converted, for not binding properly which he was not happy with WP Nel had a reasonable debut before subbed in 51st minute, looked dependable at scrum time, a few good drives/carries and some tackles, nothing too flashy though.

  • 17

    Don’t have the stats but looked to me as if Munster perhaps shaded possesion and definetely territory which made it harder for Edinburgh to attack, Edinburgh were also guilty of losing the ball in contact when looking promising on attack many times, quite a few turnovers won by Munster. Although at least Edinburgh managed a try after Munster spilled the ball in tackle on attack inside Edinburgh 22, a really nicely worked try where 8thman McInnally did some very good running and got a good pass out to Visser who bumped Munster tackler (think it was their flyhalf) with ease to run in and score the 2nd of his 3 tries.

  • 18

    Thought Visser and fullback Greg Tonks combined quite well in defence and attack. Munster fullback Denis Hurley looked dangerous as well and looked to be quite a big guy, just checked he is 1.91m and 100kg so eyes were not deceiving me.



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