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.
Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors play two RaboDirect PRO12 matches this festive season. The derby games will also double up as the 1872 Cup, in what is said to be the oldest fixture in club rugby.
Whilst South African and Southern Hemisphere referees are sitting with their feet up or bare feet in the sand at the coast this Festive Season, their Northern Hemisphere counterparts are still at work.
So where do you really want to live, in leisurely summer time in the Southern Hemisphere or in the cold gloom and doom of icy winter in the Northern Hemisphere?
Here are the referees doing duty till 29 December 2013.
Edinburgh Rugby moved up to sixth position on the RaboDirect PRO12 table with their hard fought victory over Leinster (11/6) at a cold, wet and windy Murrayfield on Friday night. This after they have spent much of the PRO12 season languishing near the bottom half of the table. This win followed a good one they achieved the weekend before in their Heineken Cup pool game against Gloucester.
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.
The prospect of two rival European club tournaments next season grew on Thursday when the four RaboDirect unions and France announced the Heineken Cup would continue and the English and French clubs insisted their Rugby Champions Cup would go ahead regardless.
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.
RaboDirect PRO12 log leaders Glasgow Warriors face second-placed Munster in a tantalising top-of-the-table clash at Scotstoun on Friday.
As the competition gets back into full swing with Round Six this weekend after a successful European double header, it’s clear that the Pro12 is going from strength to strength.
Glasgow Warriors maintained their winning start to the PRO12 with a hard-fought victory over Scarlets in Wales on Saturday evening.
Edinburgh Rugby will welcome the return of captain Greig Laidlaw this Sunday as they look to repeat last season’s away success against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park (6 October, kick-off 3.05pm South African Time). The 27-year-old scrum-half – who kicked the winning drop-goal on that day last year – has recovered from the knee injury that has kept him side-lined since the summer to make his first competitive outing of the season.
Fly-half Duncan Weir returns to the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for the game against Scarlets at Parc Y Scarlets tomorrow night, after almost six months out through injury.
The 22-year-old, who broke his leg against the Ospreys at Scotstoun last April, is one of ten changes to the team which beat Zebre in Parma last Friday.
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.
Captain Al Kellock returns to the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for the game against Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma tomorrow (Friday 27 September). The second-row was stretchered off in the opening game against Cardiff Blues three weeks ago, but has recovered to take his place in the team.
Edinburgh Rugby front-row forwards Geoff Cross and Aleki Lutui will start their first match of the season against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium this Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm South African Time)
Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend has named his line-up to take on PRO12 champions Leinster at Scotstoun on Friday night (kick off 8.30pm South African Time). In total Gregor Townsend has made five changes and one positional switch to the side that defeated Ulster at Ravenhill last Friday.
Leinster and Munster will look to solidify themselves as early pace-setters in Round Two of the Pro12 this weekend. These two teams were the only sides who collected maximum points from their first-round Pro12 games, between them running in ten of the 22 tries that were scored last weekend.
Stuart Hogg, Ryan Grant, DTH van der Merwe and Josh Strauss all return to the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for the game against Ulster at Ravenhill tonight, Friday 13 Septemeber, kick-off 8.05pm South African Time.
Gregor Townsend’s squad kicked off their new season with a 22-15 win over Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun Stadium last Friday and now face last season’s RaboDirect PRO12 finalists in Belfast. The Warriors were the last Scottish team to win at Ravenhill back in December 2009.
Wingers Tim Visser and Nikki Walker will bookend the back division when Edinburgh Rugby face Dragons at Murrayfield Stadium tonight, Friday 13 September, kick-off 8.45pm South African Time.
The outing will double as Walker’s debut for the club since signing in the summer; with the club hoping the pair, currently second and fourth in the league’s all-time top try-scoring chart, will add firepower to the side.
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.
They strode down the Grand Stairway into the Titanic Suite one by one, the captains of the RaboDirect PRO12 all kitted out in battledress and ready for action stations.
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.
PRO12 chief executive John Feehan has shrugged off the loss of title sponsor RaboDirect and insists the competition is thriving. Dutch banking group RaboDirect announced earlier this month that they would not be extending their support of the Celtic and Italian league beyond this season – their third as the main title sponsor having succeeded Magners in 2010.
Edinburgh Rugby have been very busy on the recruitment front in the closed season following a very disappointing 2012 / 13 season. Numerous players of varying experience have been brought in, with Australasia proving a particularly attractive source region to the club.
We are all well aware of the host of South African rugby players who are plying their trade outside of South Africa. For this article we venture into the land of make belief and choose a squad made up entirely of players with South African connections playing in the current season’s RaboDirect Pro12 competition. – The ‘Raboboks’
After 22 rounds and two play-off games, the 2012/13 Pro12 season wraps up on Saturday with the Final at the Royal Dublin Society. It is, appropriately, between first and second seeds, Ulster and Leinster.
Leinster (11) 17/15 (10) Glasgow Warriors
After 132 games over 22 rounds just four of the 12 participating teams now go forward to the knock-out phase in the quest to find the RaboDirect Pro12 champions of 2012/13.
With just four points separating the top three teams who have already qualified for the Pro12 play-offs, no-one can yet be certain of their position in the table.
A man who has steered his club to the most league titles in Celtic rugby has today been appointed to the position of Scotland forwards coach.
Jonathan Humphreys, the former Welsh hooker and captain, will join the Scotland management ahead of the quadrangular tournament with Samoa, South Africa and Italy in June. He will be on a two year contract.
Benetton Treviso are on course for their highest-ever RaboDirect PRO12 finish but head coach (former Springbok flyhalf) Franco Smith insists he is not concerned about the final table.
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.
It was all change yet again at the top of the Pro12 table following Round 20, with Ulster retaking the top position, whilst Glasgow Warriors slipped to third.
And with just two rounds left, and a maximum of 10 points on offer, five teams are still vying for the four play-off places.