No rest for the wicked as we get straight back into domestic action following a dramatic 6 Nations final weekend. Here are this weekend’s predictions….
Ospreys vs Cardiff Blues
Both Ospreys and Cardiff welcome back their top talent from international duties this weekend. Ospreys are currently in the fourth playoff spot but will be all too aware that Glasgow have two games in hand and are only three points behind them. They will want to add to their on their impressive record against the other three regions in this competition and get revenge on the Blues for that defeat to them in the LV=Cup last November. The Blues will be motivated to arrest a losing streak stretching back over their last four games including the ignominious “honour” of being the first Pro12 side to lose both home and away to lowly Zebre. The return of the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Alex Cuthbert will be a boost but I fear the Ospreys at home will be too strong for them.
Prediction: Ospreys by 17
Leinster vs Zebre
Leinster have named a strong, experienced squad this weekend with 14 test level internationals in their 23 man squad. Clearly they’re aiming to solidify their position at the top of the table. I wrote Zebre off last time out against the Blues at my peril, but even the most ardent supporter of this Italian side would concede that this game is probably several bridges too far for them at their current level. Leinster will win this by some distance.
Prediction: Leinster by 29
Edinburgh vs Ulster
Edinburgh host Ulster in Murrayfield in the last of Friday night’s games. Most of the talk surrounding this match has been about the long awaited return of Stephen Ferris to the visitor’s staring 15 (previously having played for 20 minutes last week against Scarlets). Edinburgh will be under the cosh against such a strong line up that Ulster have named but they have recent form (scalps over Leinster and Ospreys) on their side as well as having a decent home record this season. The last four encounters between these two sides have gone to the home team on the day, but even despite this I’m still going to have to back the Ulstermen.
Prediction: Ulster by 13
Glasgow Warriors vs Llanelli Scarlets
This one is tricky to call (with or without the teams being named). Glasgow’s home form, whenever I’ve gone to see them, has been pretty woeful. They’ll be without Stuart Hogg for the next three weeks but to be honest, I think he has yet to rediscover the form he had this time last season or with the Lions last summer. I don’t think it’ll be that big of a loss. Scarlets will come into this game on the back of a defeat to Ulster last weekend in Ravenhill but will in all likelihood be the more settled and battle hardened side. Two weeks on the road can be tough on any team though. Glasgow continue to confound my expectations but I’m going to go for a narrow win for them mostly because I’m going to be there and I’m sick of seeing them lose in front of me. Make of that what you will…
Prediction: Glasgow by 3
Munster vs Benetton Treviso
With no team sheets in front of me as I write this, I’m forced to go on form. Munster remain the only side this season with a 100% record at home and have never lost to an Italian side at either Thomond or Musgrave. Treviso have beaten Munster the last two times they’ve faced them but have only won three times this season and all of those matches were at home. They lack the depth in their squad that Munster have and have contributed more to their national side in the 6 Nations than their hosts and so will be either seriously depleted or fielding tired internationals. You’d have to favour the home side under those conditions.
Prediction: Munster by 15
Newport Gwent Dragons vs Connacht
Again without team sheets this one is a bit tricky. Connacht will be chasing an elusive four in a row winning streak, something they haven’t achieved in over ten years and have not won successive away games since 2005. The desire will no doubt be there for the men from the West. However in the last six matches for the Dragons, the home side on the day has come away with the win. This boils down to comparing Newport’s record at home this season with Connacht’s record on the road. Advantage Dragons.
Prediction: Dragons by 9
How do you see the weekend going?
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images