Guinness Pro 14: Round 8 Preview

The standout fixture of the round. Glasgow Warriors will look for revenge after a devastating ERC home loss to Leinster Rugby at Scotstoun two weeks ago. The manner of the performance will have irked Dave Rennie and coaching staff as Leinster Rugby’s pack dominated proceedings.

Cian Healy was immense, scoring two tries in the bonus point win. I fear for Glasgow Warriors again this weekend, the front five will put to the pin of their collar and sense Leinster Rugby could be in line for another positive evening. Leo Cullen’s charges had an excellent road trip win over Ulster Rugby last weekend, pulled away in the final quarter and prevented Ulster Rugby from even getting a losing point which could be key come the end of the season in the playoff shakeup.

Glasgow Warriors cannot evaluate their performance given the opposition on offer last weekend. A 43-13 win over the hapless Southern Kings will do little to prepare for this crunch fixture. A distinct nod to Leinster Rugby whose pack is stronger. A loss for Glasgow Warriors here and teams will systematically start to target the front five for the rest of the season. Plenty on the line for the Warriors.

A chance for Munster Rugby to regroup after a local derby reversal to Connacht Rugby. The performance last weekend was not good enough in all facets of play. Aimless kicking particular drubber kicks when moving the ball with fast hands was the option. The pack after a strong start were then put under pressure in the second half and the threat of the Munster Rugby’s three quarters was nullified where Aki rose above all others.

Munster Rugby looked ponderous, lacking creativity and one dimensional. The hope is that this weekend, the side can regain confidence and make significant line breaks; inside running lines required. Dragons come into this fixture on the back of a 28-14 reversal to the Ospreys.

A disappointing reversal and if Munster Rugby start well, then it could be an arduous afternoon for Bernard Jackman’s young team. Munster Rugby to get the win with a potential bonus point to boot. The focus on the Munster Rugby ten jersey will be interesting with JJ Hanrahan looking for more game to impress after that missed tackle last weekend resulted in Connacht’s game winning try.

A fixture which Scarlets will treat with the utmost respect. Benetton Rugby have shown in recent weeks that their performances on the road have being of sufficient quality. 21 points scored against Glasgow Warriors is due warning. However, Scarlets need to build confidence ahead this month after a disappointing ERC salvo last month.

Scarlets have attacking threats all over the pitch and for Benetton Rugby to have any chance, their pack has being on top form, attempt to keep the game tight and look for weakness in the front five exchanges. If this game becomes expansive in nature, there is only one winner.

Benetton Rugby to show well for three quarters but this has bonus point win written all over for Scarlets who could potentially extend their lead in Conference B standings if Leinster Rugby were to slip up away to Glasgow Warriors.

If Les Kiss wanted to play one team to restore much needed confidence for his Ulster Rugby charges, Southern Kings would tick all the boxes. Let us be frank, the Southern Kings have being abysmal in the tournament so far. They have not threatened to win a fixture in the Pro 14 and their thirty point loss to Glasgow Warriors last weekend was more of the same; numerous unforced errors, defensive gaps at regular intervals and minimal threat will ball in hand.

Ulster Rugby have had a miserable two weeks; decisive defeats to La Rochelle and Leinster Rugby have provided Ulster management, squad and fans with food for thought. A bonus point win surely is on the cards here at Port Elizabeth but tougher tests lie ahead. Pro 14 organizers need a rethink on the participation of Southern Kings and ask the South African RFU to improve the squad next season.

Must win territory for both sides. Edinburgh and Ospreys won last weekend and the vanquished this weekend surely will be looking at an extremely bleak 2018 in the league such is the gap to the top three of both conferences currently. Edinburgh Rugby responded superbly after a turbulent week off the pitch; captaincy stripped and then the reports of a failed Hardie drug test.

The road win to Benetton Rugby was excellent, full of work rate and commitment in a second half which saw Dougie Fife cross over twice. Hidalgo-Clyne at nine is starting to produce excellent form again and his try was superbly executed early doors, more of the same required this weekend.

Ospreys win last weekend was the prerequisite required. The second half performance was decisive to see off a determined Dragons outfit and a bonus point to boot will do nicely. Both sides have areas of improvement on both sides of the ball. Close contest expected and with Tovey and Biggar kicking off the tee well, not much will separate these sides. Edge to Edinburgh Rugby due to home field advantage.

A game for two sides who are looking to rebuild and gain momentum into 2018. Cardiff Blues should be well set to win this contest given the confidence boost of beating Toulouse on the road two weeks ago and how they competed for good stretches of their road loss to Scarlets last weekend.

Zebre after some promising results have slipped back in quality. Their ERC collapse to Pau at home was a devastating loss. 30-3 up and to loss that lead and the contest will require much soul searching in the Italian camp and this haunted them in not closing out the contest last weekend as Cheetahs struck late to win 23-24.

Cardiff Blues need to provide confidence and impetus ahead of European Challenge Cup and I sense a bonus point try win could be on the cards as Zebre’s confidence is surely on the slide after those recent devastating losses.

An intriguing game in prospect at the Sportsgrounds. After an excellent local derby win over Munster Rugby, confidence should be high for Kieran Keane’s charges. Their performance last weekend was full of commitment, defensive organization and creativity with ball in hand. The kicking game was ponderous like Munster Rugby and will need to improve as Cheetahs love to attack from deep with multiple supporting runners.

Cheetahs will be thankful to come away from Zebre with a win; the performance was patchy at times but management will point to the resiliency to get the result in the final quarter. Connacht will look to their front five again to build a platform. Buckley and Dillane had excellent outings last weekend and Aki again played like a man who wanted to prove a point last weekend.

Weather conditions will be key. Windy and scattered showers so slight advantage to Connacht who are familiar to getting into the trenches when the wind whips in from Lough Atalia.

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