Disclaimer: As of writing this several of the teams have yet to be named, so take these predictions with a nice big pinch of salt!
Ospreys vs. Cardiff Blues
With all hands on deck for Wales’ last international this weekend against the Aussies, it’s lucky that these two teams are playing each other and not a replenished Irish, Scottish or Italian outfit (Scarlets and Blues aren’t nearly so lucky this weekend). Ospreys will be hurting from the defeat in Murrayfield and will be looking to edge ever closer to the top 4 this week. The Blues will be looking to do the same as they’re just beneath Ospreys in the table themselves and no doubt buoyed by their win over Zebre but these opponents are made of sterner stuff. I reckon it’ll be tough but the Ospreys should take it
Prediction: Ospreys by 8
Benetton Treviso vs. Newport Gwent Dragons
Treviso at home have pushed hard against several big name teams this season. They’ve beaten Ospreys (current champs) and Scarlets (currently no.2 in the league) and been unlucky against Leinster (current European champs) and Ulster (so far unbeaten this season) losing to both Irish sides by only a point. Similarly the Dragons’ only successes have been on home soil and they have yet to pick up a win on the road this season. With that in mind, and the Welsh national side in a high pressure test match to stay in the top 8 of the global rankings, you’d have to favour the Italians to take this.
Prediction: Treviso by 7
Connacht vs. Edinburgh
Ah the enigma that is Scottish rugby. I was burned by both her clubs and her national side last weekend in my predictions (Andy Robinson, I feel your pain!). Edinburgh, the only Scottish team I bet against, went and put a halt on the Ospreys’ resurging form! Connacht’s form at home has only been so-so, though their record against Edinburgh at the Sportsground over the last few years has been good (Edinburgh haven’t won there since 2008). In the last 7 encounters between these two teams the home side has carried the day. Assuming* that Tim Visser is back in the team and with the win against Ospreys under their belt I’m betting that Edinburgh will break this trend.
Prediction: Edinburgh by 4
*see disclaimer above
Leinster vs. Zebre
Zebre are still chasing that elusive win and with their current injury woes that’s not likely to change anytime soon especially considering the venue they’re heading to this weekend. Leinster’s team has yet to be named but you’d assume that some big name internationals will be back in the fold this weekend. Leinster triumphed in pouring rain away to Glasgow and unless they rest their 1st string team this weekend, they should dispatch Zebre handily.
Prediction: Leinster by 15
Munster vs. Glasgow Warriors
Both of these sides let me down last weekend. It’s true that they both played in absolutely horrendous conditions but still, if the weather is terrible you’d imagine that the home side should prevail given that they would be used it! An under-strength Leinster were there for the taking by Glasgow and with four penalties going wide in such a low scoring match (6-0), they’ll rue such a missed opportunity. Munster were still in their game against Scarlets with 10 mins to go but a lapse in concentration let the Scarlets pull away. Luckily for them they regained focus enough at the death to squeeze out a losing bonus point. With the November internationals over for both Ireland and Scotland, Munster and Glasgow should both be replenished and ready for this game. I think Munster benefit more from the return though especially since Ireland finished on a high and Zebo and others will be brimming with confidence.
Prediction: Munster by 6
Llanelli Scarlets vs. Ulster
This one is very tough to call. Scarlets ground out a win away from home in atrocious conditions at a venue that’s never been favorable to them in the entire history of the competition. That’s quite the achievement. Ulster have had some scrappy (some would say dodgy) wins recently against two Italian sides ranked at the lower end of the table. In their defence , Ulster had lost key players to injury and international duties. They’ll have no such setbacks this weekend and Scarlets’ home advantage must surely be cancelled out by losing their better players to the afore-mentioned Wales vs. Australia game. This is looking like the game of the weekend. A replenished Ulster to squeak by again and remain unbeaten.
Prediction: Ulster by 3