This weekend sees action in Round 6 of the Guinness PRO12 and is the last round of action before a few weeks break as we head into the initial stages of the European Professional Rugby Cup competitions – with the Champion and Challenge Cup matches kicking off next weekend.
There has already been two Round 6 PRO12 matches this weekend (Friday night) while there will be a further three on Saturday and the last match of the Round is due to be played on Sunday.
Leinster’s indifferent start to the season continued as they slipped to a second loss of the campaign away at Connacht, going down 10-9.
The defending champions had led 9-3 at half-time thanks to three Ian Madigan penalties but Kieran Marmion’s solo try ensured Connacht – who had lost their previous 11 all-Ireland clashes – preserved their 100 per cent start to the season.
At the Liberty Stadium, Ospreys ran in nine tries against Edinburgh to consolidate their one point lead at the top of the table.
The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.
Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.
Connacht continued their winning start to the season with another tight triumph, this time a 14-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby thanks to Willy Faloon’s last-gasp try.
Tom Heathcote’s boot and a try from Cornell du Preez gave Edinburgh a 13-6 lead at half time; Connacht’s points coming from two Darragh Leader penalties.
Faloon was sent to the sin bin with 16 minutes left on the clock, but returned to touch down the winning try in the dying minutes.
Reigning champions Leinster were toppled by beaten finalists Glasgow Warriors at Scostoun, with Stuart Hogg slotting over the winning penalty with the last kick of the game.
Warriors stormed to a 19-0 lead with tries from Peter Horne, Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray, but then Leinster staged a late revival.
Jack McGrath and Tom Denton found their way over the whitewash to put the Irish province into the lead for the first time, but ill-discipline in the dying minutes led to Hogg’s successful penalty.
Former Scotland international flyhalf Dan Parks has announced his retirement from all forms of rugby after retiring from international rugby in 2012.
Australian born Parks played for Scotland over an eight year period in which he won 67 caps.
The Irish Rugby Football Union, Connacht and Leinster have agreed a loan deal that will see two high-profile players swap provinces.
Scrumhalf John Cooney and lock Quinn Roux will play at Connacht next season.
Roux will move to Connacht on an initial deal until December 31 and will link up with coach Pat Lam’s squad next month for the beginning of the pre-season period.
Meanwhile, Cooney, whose terms have been agreed for the full 2014/15 season, will continue his shoulder rehab with Leinster during the off-season before departing for Galway.
Glasgow’s Jonny Gray was named ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the RaboDirect PRO12 Awards evening in the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.
Jonny Gray picked up the award after not only breaking into and starting in the Glasgow side, but also into the Scottish national team.
He beat Leinster centre Noel Reid to the title and follows in the footsteps of Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) and Luke Marshall (Ulster Rugby) as the RaboDirect PRO12 ‘Young Player of the Year’.
Round 22 of the Pro12 promises to be a fitting finale to the regular season, with Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.
As with previous seasons all 6 games will kick off simultaneously to add to the excitement and give no advantage to any team.
At the top of the table 3 teams are still in contention for the 2 home Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.
The Rhino Collision Kings Award is awarded each year to the team in the RaboDirect PRO12 which has shown most improvement at the breakdown throughout the regular season.
The trophy is a replica of the groundbreaking Collision King machine invented by Richie Gray, Rhino skills consultant and brand ambassador who was recently appointed breakdown coach to the Springboks through to next year’s World Cup.
The selection panel for the Award is chaired by Galashiels-based Gray, who in addition to other duties has been a BBC Radio Scotland commentator throughout much of the PRO12 season.
Former All Black stalwart Mils Muliaina has signed for Connacht for next season, the Irish province announced on Monday.
The 33-year-old fullback, capped 100 times by New Zealand, has signed a one-year contract with the Irish club to become the first ever All Black to play with Connacht.
The May Day weekend should provide the most intense scrutiny of the RaboDirect PRO12 table to date.
The opening fixture between Zebre and Ospreys could go a long way to answering some of the questions – a loss for the hosts would put Treviso in the driving seat for the Italian spot in next season’s European competition, whilst a loss for the visitors Ospreys, without picking up any league points, would take away their mathematical chances of making the Play-Offs .
Tom McCartney has decided to swap Super Rugby for the Pro12 by signing a three-year contract with Irish side Connacht.
McCartney has been a consistent performer for the Blues since he made his Super Rugby debut in 2008 against the Chiefs.
He has since accumulated 64 appearances in the competition.
Connacht captured a major overseas signing for the 2014 / 2015 season to further strengthen the midfield.
New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki, 24, a member of the two-time defending Super Rugby champion Chiefs, has signed a three-year deal with the Irish province, Connacht, and the Irish Rugby Football Union.
Connacht Loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson has been forced into retirement due to a serious neck injury sustained in the last game he played for the club.
The 30-year-old South African has been with Connacht since 2006 and has played 183 times for the province.
With the Six Nations over the club tournament of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy takes centre stage once again as round 17 kicks off this Friday.
Having led Leinster to the Pro12 title last season, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took the 6 Nations crown at the first time of asking in a tense finish to the Championship last weekend. Following on Ireland’s success it is perhaps appropriate that as the Pro12 returns to centre stage three of the top four teams are Irish Provinces.
After a round of games played in dreadful conditions during which yet another fixture fell foul of the weather, players and spectators alike must be hoping that Round 14 of the Pro12 fares better.
The round kicks off with two games in the Irish capitals on Friday night, one in Belfast and one in Dublin, both featuring Welsh opposition.
After just over a month out of the limelight, the focus returns once more to the Pro12 and the first of four successive rounds that could have a huge impact on the outcome of this season’s tournament.
Winger Lee Jones has been added to the Glasgow Warriors squad for the forthcoming RaboDirect PRO12 matches, to provide injury cover until the end of the season.
The 25-year-old returns from Scotland 7s duty in New Zealand following his agreed loan from Edinburgh Rugby and will be available for this Sunday’s game against Connacht at Scotstoun Stadium.
Edinburgh loose forward Cornell du Preez and Connacht duo Kieran Marmion and Nathan White have been cited after the weekend’s final round of the European Cup pool stages.
The festive fixtures continue as return local derbies were scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales and Italy during the Pro12’s Round 12.
Wales and Scotland were set to start the New Year with a game on New Year’s Day, as Cardiff Blues hosted Newport Gwent Dragons and after the Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland, Glasgow Warriors welcomed Edinburgh to Scotstoun. However, the game in Glasgow was called off less than an hour before kick off due to the field being waterlogged.
The traditional festive season local derbies are set to take centre stage as the Pro12 Round 11 provides an exciting escape from turkey and TV. The games in Scotland and Wales take place on Boxing Day, whilst Ireland foregoes St Stephens’ Day games and sticks to the traditional Friday and Saturday slots.
The focus returns once again to the PRO12 after two weeks of European competition, with Irish Provinces topping three of the six European Cup Pools.
Round Eight of the Pro12 kicks off on Friday night with both Scottish teams in action – early season leaders Glasgow Warriors welcoming Newport Gwent Dragons to Scotstoun, whilst Edinburgh travel to Belfast to face Ulster.
The top-of-the-table clash at Thomond Park between Munster and Ospreys on Saturday headlines Round Seven of the Pro12. Munster currently lead the pack thanks to winning one more game than Ospreys, but Ospreys have garnered more bonus points in the six rounds than their hosts, so the scene is set for an epic battle.
Saracens survived a scare but held on to beat Connacht 17-23 in the Heineken Cup at the Sportsground in Galway on Friday.
Connacht, coached by former Samoa No 8 Pat Lam – a European Cup winner with Northampton in 2000, held Saracens at 17-17 at half-time.
As the Pro12 enters Round Four, Glasgow Warriors – the last remaining team with a 100 percent winning record – are in action in Parma on Friday night when they face Zebre.
Having waited so long for their first win in the competition, the Italian outfit will have their work cut out to make it back-to-back victories as table-topping Warriors have already defeated champions Leinster and last season’s runners up Ulster so far this season.
The RaboDirect PRO12 is back and so is our weekly PRO12 preview, which takes the spotlight off the capital club and pans across the division.
Ahead of the start of the RaboDirect PRO12 season on September 6, we preview the fortunes of each side.
The new season of RaboDirect PRO12 rugby is nearly upon us and despite seeing several top players leave the league and opt to take up a contract in the Top 14, the 12 sides in the Celtic competition have had a busy summer as they look to bolster their resources. Several top internationals have decided to give the PRO12 a shot and we have picked out a selection of eye-catching transfers in the latest Scrum Sevens.
The RaboDirect PRO12 is in line to record its best ever attendances since the competition changed to a home and away format ten seasons ago.
Round 17 of the Pro12 kicks off with five games on Friday, with both contenders for the top spot in action.
Leaders Ulster, who have been at the top since round five, welcome Benetton Treviso to Ravenhill whilst Glasgow Warriors host Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun.
Connacht and Leinster have become embroiled in angry exchanges following Ireland lock Mike McCarthy’s decision to move to the Heineken Cup champions.
Two-time defending European Cup champions Leinster host Clermont in the fourth round of the competition this weekend in the knowledge that they will have to dig deep for a “vital” bonus-point victory.
The fifth round of the RaboDirect Pro12 started with four matches on Friday night and the remaining two fixtures in the round being played on Saturday. This round yielded numerous surprise results, so much so that we only managed to correctly predict one out of the six results.