What’s at Stake
The action begins at BT Murrayfield on Friday night as Edinburgh (B6) welcome Connacht (A3) (live on Premier Sports 1 & eir sport 2, 19:35) in a game that could be crucial in the race for a Guinness PRO14 Final Series spot. Edinburgh finished last season on fire but have lost each of their first two games, both on the road, against Ospreys and Ulster. They will be keen to put that right against a Connacht team who had won four straight games between the teams prior to last year’s 29-22 Edinburgh success at the Sportsground. Connacht have also won on three of their last four visits to BT Murrayfield.
Saturday’s action begins in West Wales where Scarlets (B5) host in-form Benetton Rugby (B1) at Parc y Scarlets (live on DAZN, 18:15, S4C & Premier Sports 1, eir sport 2, 17:15). The Scarlets come into the game in confident mood after their narrow win over champions Leinster last time out. That was some form of revenge for defeat in last year’s final and was an important win after succumbing to Ulster in Round 1. Benetton, meanwhile, will still be bouncing from Tommaso Allan’s last-gasp conversion that saw them beat Cardiff Blues and go top of Conference B. Their recent record against Welsh opposition is good, including victory over the Scarlets in Treviso in February.
Leinster (B3) return to Dublin on Saturday against the Dragons (B4) (live on Premier Sports 2 & eir sport 1, TG4, 17:15) with both teams having won one and lost one so far. Leinster have been virtually unbeatable at home in recent times, with Benetton the only side to come away from Dublin with a win of the last 15 teams to travel to the Irish capital. Dragons were victorious away to Leinster in 2015, their only away win against the Irish province but they come in with confidence following victory over the Kings. Bernard Jackman also returns to the team he played for as the Dragons director of rugby looks to get one over former teammate Leo Cullen.
The first game of the Guinness PRO14 season in South Africa will take place in Bloemfontein where Toyota Cheetahs (A7) entertain Glasgow Warriors (A2) (live on SuperSport 1, 19:30 & Free Sports 18:30). This was one of the games of last season as the Warriors became the first time to win away to the Cheetahs, earning a 29-26 success. The Warriors, under Dave Rennie, have made a strong start to the campaign with wins away to Connacht and at home to Munster to date. However they take on a Cheetahs side who were beaten just twice on their own patch in all of their debut year. This is also a clash between two of last year’s Final Series teams in Conference A.
On Saturday evening Zebre (A5) entertain Cardiff Blues (A6) in Parma (live on DAZN, 20:35 & Premier Sports 1, eir sport 2, 19:35) with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats in Round 2. Zebre saw their four-match winning streak in the competition ended away to Connacht, while the Blues were downed by that last-gasp Allan conversion away in Benetton. John Mulvihill’s team are still searching for a first win of the campaign, having come out on the wrong side of two heart-breaking finishes so far. Zebre will have fond memories of playing Cardiff Blues, it was against the Welsh side that they won their first-ever match in the competition.
The action continues on Sunday when Isuzu Southern Kings (B7) play host to Ulster (B2) (live on SuperSport 1, 14:15 & eir sport 2 & Premier Sports 1, 13:15) in Port Elizabeth. Ulster won a 79-point thriller the first time these two met in South African, at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium last November. They have picked up two late wins to start this campaign and face a Kings side who will take some confidence from their two bonus points in defeat to Dragons.
Pick of the Round Munster v Ospreys
On Friday night, Munster (A4) will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Glasgow Warriors when they host the Ospreys (A1) at Irish Independent Park in Cork (live on Premier Sports 2, TG4 & eir sport 1, 19:35). Munster have lost just once at home in any competition since February 2017 but they welcome an Ospreys team on a roll thanks to two straight wins over Edinburgh and the Cheetahs. This could turn out to be a crucial clash in the race for Final Series spots in Conference A even at this early stage in the season.