This weekend sees the fifth round of the 2012/13 Pro12 competition, with four games taking place on Friday night and the remaining two fixtures in the round scheduled for Saturday.
Despite their defeat to Ospreys last weekend (and subsequent loss of the only remaining 100% record in this season’s competition) Scarlets still sit atop of the table and travel to Treviso in one of two Saturday games.
The other fixture on Saturday sees Ospreys host Munster, the team they defeated in the play-offs on the way to becoming champions, at the Liberty Stadium.
Before all that, the round opens with four games on Friday night, including the all-Ireland clash at the Sportsground in Galway, when Connacht host European Champions, Leinster.
Even though the visitors have an impressive record against fellow Irish Provinces, Connacht can take heart from the fact that they were the victors in this equivalent fixture in 2010.
There are also two games in Wales on Friday: Dragons host Edinburgh Rugby and Cardiff Blues take on Ulster.
The Blues have attracted large crowds since their return to the Arms Park and they will be hoping they can maintain their seven year unbeaten record against the Ulstermen.
In nearby Newport the visitors, Edinburgh Rugby must cast their minds back to May 2006 for their last victory against the Dragons but can take heart from the recent win in Wales over Cardiff and last weekend’s spirited showing against Leinster, securing a losing bonus point, despite being reduced to 13 men for ten minutes.
The remaining fixture in the round sees new franchise Zebre make their second trip to Scotland, this time to face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.
The visitors will be looking for a better return this time having gone down 41-10 at Murrayfield in round three. ENDS.
Full list of fixtures
|Date||Kick off time (SA time)||Teams||Venue|
|Fri 28 Sep||20.00||Dragons v Edinburgh||Rodney Parade|
|Fri 28 Sep||20.05||Cardiff Blues v Ulster||Cardiff Arms Park|
|Fri 28 Sep||20.35||Glasgow Warriors v Zebre||Scotstoun|
|Fri 28 Sep||21.00||Connacht v Leinster||Sportsground|
|Sat 29 Sep||19.30||Ospreys v Munster||Liberty Stadium|
|Sat 29 Sep||20.05||Benetton Treviso v Scarlets||Stadio Monigo|
Dragons v Edinburgh
The Dragons have not had the best of starts to their season with only one win to boast of from their four outings so far. Their solitary win was back in August in their first game of the season, against bottom team Zebre.
Edinburgh have not been that consistent this season having won two and lost two so far with their most recent result being a loss away from home against Leinster. However they have managed to secure losing bonus points on both of occasions by coming within seven points of less of both Leinster and Munster.
While one may be tempted to favour the home team I think we can expect Edinburgh to head back home with a win under their belts.
Dragons : 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Lewis Evans (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Dan Way, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Jevon Groves, 20 Tom Brown, 21 Liam Davies (Bedwas), 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Will Harries
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Tom Brown, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Stuart McInally ,5 Sean Cox (capt), 4 Robert McAlpine, 3 Geoff Cross , 2 Andy Titterrell, 1 Allan Jacobsen
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 John Yapp, 18 Lewis Niven, 19 Dimitri Basilaia, 20 Roddy Grant, 21 Chris Leck, 22 John Houston, 23 Dougie Fife
Cardiff Blues v Ulster
Cardiff Blues are currently in third place on the log, having only lost once so far this season.
Ulster are unbeaten this season and are in fifth position with a game in hand over the Blues. They have the game in hand as their game against Zebre last weekend was cancelled following the tragic death of their young promising centre 22 year old Nevin Spence in an accident on the family farm. Spence’s older brother and father also passed away in the accident and an emotional memorial service attended by thousands of fans was held last Sunday at Ravenhill, Ulster’s home ground.
It is difficult to know how the Ulster players will respond to this tragedy but they should play with a lot of passion. However, given Cardiff’s form this season and the fact they are the home team, one would expect Cardiff to win.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Dafydd Hewitt, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius (capt), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Robin Copeland, 5 James Down, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Andi Kyriacou, 1 Nathan Trevett
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Williams.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry (capt), 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Neil McComb, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Paddy Wallace, 23 Craig Gilroy
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre
Glasgow Warriors have made a staggering 13 changes to the starting 15 from their previous game against Connacht as well as various changes to the bench.
The Scottish Rugby Union have an arrangement with Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh that require their Scottish international players to have a rest after five games. With Zebre firmly rooted to the bottom of the table it would seem that Glasgow are taking the opportunity to give some of their players a break a week early. Some of the changes are also due to various newly signed players being handed their debuts, while they also have the bonus of the return to action, earlier than previously expected, of star fullback Stuart Hogg who is on the bench.
It will be interesting to see how cohesive Glasgow are with all the changes and initially they may struggle against a Zebre team who will be very keen to get their first win of the campaign. Ultimately though, Glasgow should pull off their second win in the Pro12 at their new Scotstoun ground.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Fraser Thompson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH vd Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro (capt), 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cussack, 2 Finley Gillies, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Ofa Fainga’anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 James Eddie, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Stuart Hogg
Zebre: 15 Daniel Halangahu, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (capt), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Michael van Vuren, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Luca Redolfini,, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16 Andrea Mancini, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Andrea de Marchi, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Paolo Buso, 23 Samuele Pace
Connacht v Leinster
Leinster did not start this season on the best of notes with a loss in their opening game to the Scarlets. However, they have gone on to win their last three games and are currently in fourth position on the table, merely two points behind leaders the Scarlets.
In spite of being the hosts one cannot see Connacht, who are struggling this season, managing to be strong enough. Expect Leinster to win this one fairly comfortably.
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O’Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry,
11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7. Johnny O’Connor, 6. Eoin McKeon, 5. Mike McCarthy, 4. Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (capt), 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Brett Wilkinson, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Mata Fifita
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 1 Heinke van der Merwe, 2 Thomas Sexton, 3 Jamie Hagan, 4 Quinn Roux, 5 Tom Denton, 6 Ben Marshall, 7 Shane Jennings(capt), 8 Leo Auva’a
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Fionn Carr
Ospreys v Munster
This game is possibly one of the hardest ones of the weekend to call.
The Ospreys are hosts and after a slow start to the tournament they finally got their first win last weekend, a surprise victory away from home against fellow countrymen and log leaders Scarlets.
The Ospreys have also managed to pick up two bonus points for losing games by seven points or less, although they would not have been happy with their opening game against Treviso where they would have expected at least 4 points for a win.
Munster are sitting in second place with only one point separating themselves from the leaders. The only game that Munster lost so far was by the narrowest of margins, namely 1 point, against Ulster. Munster will also be rather confident following a comprehensive win, by 20 points, over the Dragons last weekend.
Munster’s flyhalf Ian Keatley is currently the joints top points scorer and although his expected direct opposition Dan Biggar is a class player one feels his forwards will provide him with a better platform from which to play once he comes off the bench and so possibly this will see Munster emerging victorious.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Jonathan Thomas, 20 George Stowers, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ross Jones
Munster: 15 Dennis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (capt), 13 Keith Earls, 12 Casey Laulala, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Tommy O’Donnell, 5 B Holland, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian Du Preez
Replacements: 16 Damian Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Peter O’Mahony,21 Peter Stringer, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 James Downey
Benetton Treviso v Scarlets
Treviso are second from bottom on the log and their only win of the season thus far was in their first outing during the last weekend in August.
The Scarlets may have stumbled in their last game but have otherwise been in fine form this season and are well deserved leaders of the Pro12 at this stage. Scarlets should win this one fairly comfortably.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Alberto Sgarbi, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Tommaso Iannone, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Paul Derbyshire, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo
Scarlets: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jon Davies, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 George Earle, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Phil John
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Peter Edwards, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Kristian Phillips
Table after 4 rounds
Top try scorers
|Player||Position and Club||No. Tries (no. Games played)|
|Tim Visser||Wing – Edinburgh||6 (4)|
|George North||Wing – Scarlets||5 (4)|
|Daniel Evans||Fullback/Wing – Dragons||4 (4)|
|DTH vd Merwe||Wing – Glasgow Warriors||4 (3)|
|Robert Barbieri||Flanker – Benetton Treviso||3 (4)|
Leading points scorers
|Player||Position and Club||Points Scored (no. games played)|
|Ian Keatley||Flyhalf – Munster||51 (4)|
|Greg Laidlaw||Flyhalf – Edinburgh||41 (4)|
|Ian Madigan||Flyhalf – Leinster||33 (4)|
|Tom Prydie||Wing – Dragons||32 (4)|
|Mia Nicorah||Flyhalf – Connacht||30 (3)|