Another 6 Nations done and dusted; if you’re Italian, Scottish or Welsh you are, in all likely-hood pretty happy right now; if you’re Irish, English or French then the less said about the recent tournament the better! Last time out I got 4 out of 6 correct but the two I got wrong turned out to be draws which is pretty rare. In both cases the home side had the winning of the game but couldn’t close it out. With teams returning to full strength it remains to be seen if that will happen again this time around.
Zebre vs Llanelli Scarlets
Zebre are still chasing a win but in all likelihood it’s hard to see past a Scarlets victory here. Zebre sit bottom of the table and the only positives they can cite going into this clash are that 8 of those 23(!) losses were close, (i.e. within 7 points) and also Scarlets’ away record of late hasn’t been great (they’ve lost the last 5 away games across all tournaments). Scarlets meanwhile are sitting in 4th spot and know that Ospreys, a solitary point behind them, are breathing down their necks for that last playoff spot. If that’s not motivation enough for them to win here, I don’t know what is.
Prediction: Scarlets by 10
Ospreys vs Newport Gwent Dragons
The Dragons welcome back Coombs and Faletau from international duty and Lydiate from injury. No doubt they’ll be hoping to turn their team’s fortunes around. Ospreys also welcome back members of Wales’ championship winning side not least Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones, Richard Hibbard and Justin Tipuirc. Ospreys might be hoping Scarlets slip up in Italy but know that in reality if they want to be in with a shot for the top four they’ll need to not only secure the win here, but get the bonus point too. I think that and home advantage means they’ll be tough to beat.
Prediction: Ospreys by 15
Edinburgh vs Ulster
Edinburgh are still in a state of disarray but they will be buoyed by having their internationals back for this fixture – their bench is looking particularly strong. Ulster started this season so well but have gone off the boil in recently. Treviso were done and dusted in their last outing against them but the Italians managed to claw their way back into the match in the 2nd half, the ensuing draw ensuring Ulster lost their grip on 1st place in the table. An injury riddled side away from home could be there for the taking for the Scots but somehow I just don’t see it happening that way.
Prediction: Ulster by 9
Munster vs Connacht
Munster have been rudderless this season and their home record (especially at Musgrave Park) has been poor. They’ve been given a boost with the return of the iconic Paul O’Connell however and his presence will be invaluable. Connacht have been on a good run of form of late and will be looking at this game as one they can win. I think the enforced break of the 6 Nations has potentially disrupted their momentum though and allowed Munster to mentally and physically regroup. I freely admit that theory could be wishful thinking on my part but I think the home side will take it.
Prediction: Munster by 7
Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues
Treviso and Italy in general have definitely up their game. Treviso’s fight back at Ravehill was very impressive. If not for a wayward conversion attempt at the death they’d have snatched a sizable scalp. Cardiff will be welcoming back their excellent international players but will be without Cuthbert who’s been ruled out for up to a month with a leg injury. It’s difficult to call this one without seeing the sides named (especially since they are side by side in the table) but I reckon the Italians at home will take this opportunity to finally put one over the Blues. Hold off until you see the line up though; if Halfpenny & Co. are named then it could easily go the other way.
Prediction: Treviso by 5
Leinster vs Glasgow Warriors
To me this looks like the game of the weekend. Both sides are in a good run of form; Glasgow knocked Ulster off the top-spot and Lenister are still unbeaten at home. Add in the fact that both teams are having their stars return from international duties and injury and this looks to be a cracker. Again like the prediction above this one must be taken with a heap of salt since as I write this I don’t know what Leinster’s team line up is like. Glasgow’s looks impressive in places and they’ll be looking for revenge on their earlier loss at home to Leinster this season (which they should’ve won). Unfortunately the double loss of Hogg and Maitland will hamper their chances of beating this Irish side looking to put the last few weekends of 6 Nations disappointment behind them – in particular that game against Scotland!
Prediction: Leinster by 3
Feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below:
By John O’Brien