Domestic action returns to us this weekend, albeit without several big name players that are away on international duty. With so many teams missing their star players these calls are a bit of a coin toss but nobody said predicting match results would be easy.
Ulster vs Edinburgh
Ulster have named a very strong side to take the field tonight against Edinburgh. In particular the release of Luke Marshall and Daren Cave from international commitments is a timely boost to the squad. Ulster took their eye off the ball last time a Scottish team visited Ravenhill this season – they will not let that happen again. Edinburgh, meanwhile have a potential ace up their sleeve with their new coach (Alan Solomons) being so intimately aware of Ulster’s tactics and mindset, having had a relatively successfully time coaching them from 2001-2004. Edinburgh might be coming into this on the back of two wins but against a team of Ulster’s quality and on their own turf, it’d be a brave man to back anyone but the home side here.
Prediction: Ulster by 22
Glasgow Warriors vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Glasgow will want to get back to winning ways at home after their surprise loss to Munster a few weeks back. Having Stuart Hogg back in action will definitely help the cause tonight considering how many players Glasgow will be providing to the national side this weekend. The Dragons come into this game on the back of mixed season, beating Ulster one weekend, losing to Edinburgh the next. Form and history favour the Warriors having only lost once in their last nine encounters against the Welsh regions. It’s hard to look past them winning here.
Prediction: Glasgow by 15
Note: As of writing this, with most of the focus on the Autumn Internationals, club team sheet announcements tend to be delayed quite a bit. Therefore the following predictions should be taken with a fairly unhealthy dosage of salt.
Ospreys vs Zebre
Even with no team-sheets for either side here, I think it’s safe to say that the Ospreys will be the likely victors in this encounter. Especially when you consider that Zebre have been shorn of what little star power they had for Italy’s clash with Argentina tomorrow. While it’s true to say that they have had their best results against Welsh sides this year, and that they came agonizingly close to victory at this very fixture last January not to mention that their opponents have lost five players to the national side, I reckon that the Ospreys should carry the day and comfortably so.
Prediction: Ospreys by 20.
Connacht vs Llanelli Scarlets
This game is tricky. Connacht have been known to take a big scalp or two out of the blue and suffer a much smaller talent drain during the AIs and Six Nations than some of the other PRO12 sides. Meanwhile, the Scarlets have lost seven players to Wales’ clash with Tonga which is sure to cause them some issues. Looking at their recent encounters you’d have to back the visitors but with the aforementioned issues for the Scarlets, Connacht probably shouldn’t be written off too easily.
Prediction: Scarlets by 10
Cardiff Blues vs Munster
Cardiff may be without the likes of Owen and Lloyd Williams and the irreplaceable Leigh Halfpenny, but nonetheless will present a tough challenge for a visiting Munster side presumably missing O’Mahony, O’Connell, and Murray. Current form doesn’t bode well for the home side this season however, with only three wins from seven, and two of those coming against perennial whipping boys Edinburgh and Connacht, not to mention that infamous loss to Zebre a few months back. Munster’s own season and current position at the top of the table belies the fact that they’ve had a fairly easy run of it thus far, Leinster visiting Thomond being their toughest home game and Glasgow their toughest away. Without more information to go on it’s another coin toss.
Prediction: Munster by 2
Benetton Treviso vs Leinster
Again neither team has been named but we know that both clubs contribute heavily to their respective national sides. I’m quite fond of pointing out that Treviso at home are a tough nut to crack but given the comparative strength of depth available to both clubs I’d be very surprised if Leinster didn’t come away with a win here.
Prediction: Leinster by 10
As always feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below!
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images