As the RaboDirect Pro12 season gets underway, here are Gareth Hughes’ SuperBru predictions for the first round.
Treviso v Ospreys
No team can take a visit to the Stadio Monigo lightly. At home Treviso is always strong and brings a much cleverer game to the table than is generally understood. Treviso has recruited well and has increased the firepower of their formidable pack. But, Ospreys will travel with confidence and will expect to win. It is a tough start for the champions but after a hard and physical encounter they will narrowly prevail.
Ospreys by 3
Connacht v Cardiff Blues
Whatever the weather forecast this is a stormy place to go and play rugby. Connacht have developed into a tough and clever team, this is definitely not a fixture Cardiff would have looked forward to at all. Phil Davies has done very well to shift the black clouds of pessimism that hung over the Arms Park but this is a very stern test for his new team indeed.
Connacht by 3
Edinburgh Rugby v Munster
A severe test for Edinburgh’s league credentials and although Michael Bradley has strengthened the squad, a Munster team absolutely determined to put last season’s disappointments well and truly behind them will be very hard for Edinburgh to handle.
Munster by 10
Newport Gwent Dragons v Zebre
Put simply Newport simply have to win this game. Zebre, the new Italian franchise, are the ultimate unknown quantity and Newport will seek to put them under pressure from the first whistle, do not let them settle and hope to put them to the sword. Newport should have too much nous and team unity not to defeat the Italians.
Newport by 10
Scarlets v Leinster
This match is arguably the game of the weekend and could put down a marker for either side as regards their prospects this season. Lenister are the Heineken cup champions and runners up in the Rabo last season; they bring real pedigree with them. Yet there is sense of vulnerability, as this is the first game of the season and they will be without their big names. Easterby will have been targeting this game since the fixtures were announced and he will make sure that the Scarlet are coming nicely to the boil when they take the field at 6.30 on Saturday. Scarlets have the team to do well this season and they have strengthened the squad in the right places. This will be an exciting pell mell of a game and it will be home advantage that will prove the crucial difference.
Scarlets by 3
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors
The forbidding fortress that is the home of Ulster rugby the intimidating Ravenhill will be full for the visitors from across the water and they will be accorded the traditional hostile welcome. After last season’s heroics Glasgow will not be underestimated, they are tough, nuggety side and Ulster will not be able to easily put them away. But in the last twenty minutes the Ulster pack will have built up a head of steam and that is when the Ravenhill faithful will be repaid for their support.
Ulster by 10