Well, with the exception of one glaringly unexpected outcome, last week’s predictions largely went by the book. To anyone who called that Glasgow-Dragons result, I tip my hat to you sir(s). This week is still quite tricky to call; for most teams their international quality players are returning, with the obvious exception of the Welsh Regions, where presumably it’s all hands on deck for Australia vs The Lions, Game 4 (couldn’t resist). Obviously having your star players return is a boost but how quickly they gel in with the rest of their respective squads is the question here.
Ospreys vs Glasgow Warriors
Ospreys are currently sitting 2nd in the table despite two losses in their last four games. They’ll be missing a lot of talent (six by my count) to the national side this weekend though, which is no doubt why the bookies are slightly favouring the visitors. As for their opponents, all I can ask is what happened to Glasgow last week? I’ll admit they were shorn of many of their big names but still, on paper that teamsheet still looked impressive. Two losses at home in a row is not a good place for a team to find themselves in, especially when you consider the roll they were on not so long ago. Normally I’d back the home side, but considering that we have a reinvigorated Glasgow team, hell bent on getting their season back on track, not to mention their recent history at Liberty Stadium, I’m leaning the other way. Ospreys are a quality side though, and should never be underestimated at home. It all depends on how well the returning Glasgow players mesh back into their club.
Prediction: Glasgow by 10
Newport Gwent Dragons vs Munster
The upset of the last round, by a considerable margin, was the Dragons garnering a rare win in Scotstoun. Their coach has kept the faith with that exact same team to do it again this weekend against an almost completely re-shuffled Munster side. As a Munsterman myself, that has me worried. The more you play together as a team the less often you commit silly handling errors at crucial times. Advantage Dragons. Munster may also be guilty of having one eye on the Pro12 and the other on their upcoming double header against Perpignan in the Heineken Cup. While it’s true that the Dragons have only beat Munster once in their last six encounters, the last three encounters have gone to the home side on the day. I’m really torn here because I suspect the Dragons will fancy their chances, but that Munster teamsheet (and especially the strength of their bench) has given me pause.
Prediction: Munster by 7
Edinburgh vs Connacht
Edinburgh welcome back several internationals this weekend though probably not as many as they’d like, considering that they’ll be without the services of Ross Ford and Grant Gilchrist who picked up injuries against Australia last weekend. They’ve certainly had a better season that Connacht so far and are undefeated at home since round 4, their only defeat at home this season. Connacht on the other hand are having a terrible time of it home and away, with only one win to their name (against the Pro12 whipping boys Zebre) all season. In their favour, it should be pointed out that in their last two encounters with Edinburgh, victory went to the away side on the day; Connacht having won here last April. Somehow I don’t think Connacht are going to get back to back victories in the Scottish capital this weekend.
Prediction: Edinburgh by 10
Warning, with no team-sheets for the following games in my possession as of writing these predictions you should probably wait until they’ve been named before you place any bets or make your SuperBru picks!
Zebre vs Ulster
You’d be forgiven for writing off Zebre here completely against Ulster but one thing to consider (in fact, the only thing) is that in this exact fixture last season Zebre ran Ulster incredibly close, losing out by just 2 points. They were very unlucky not to record their first ever victory then and notably to an Ulster side that were demolishing teams left, right and centre at the time. As it stands right now, Zebre have failed to build on their surprise win over the Blues earlier this season and I don’t think they’ll do it here.
Prediction: Ulster by 20
Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues
Last weekend Treviso went down to Leinster by just the slimmest of margins, just a solitary point, which is impressive considering that both teams lost players to international obligations. Treviso were the more impoverished side, too, lacking the strength in depth in their squad that a powerhouse like Leinster would have and will no doubt be delighted to welcome back their international stars again. In recent years they’ve become a tough side to beat at home, and will definitely pose a challenge for a Blues team shorn of their premium talent like Warburton, Halfpenny, Cuthbert and Owen Williams. The Blues did beat Treviso a few weeks back but their away record this season speaks for itself.
Prediction: Treviso by 7
Leinster vs Llanelli Scarlets
Normally it’s quite tough to call matches without the teams in front of me. Without those, I have to go on form and history, both of which favour Leinster. Add to the mix that Scarlets are playing away from home minus seven key players to international duty and it’s a pretty safe bet that Leinster are going to come out on top here.
Prediction: Leinster by 17
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
As always feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below