Five of the biggest match-ups next season

Tom Dean
17 July 2019

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The countdown to the start of the new Guinness PRO14 can now begin in earnest after the fixtures were announced for what promises to be a blockbuster 2019/20 campaign.

Leinster will be bidding to become the first side to win the tournament for a third consecutive year, having defended their title by beating Glasgow Warriors in last season’s final.

But the Irish province are unlikely to have it all their own way as the remaining 13 teams vie for their place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series and a chance to win silverware.

And following the release of the fixtures for this season, here’s a look at five of the biggest match-ups you can look forward to during the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 campaign.

Ulster v Ospreys, Kingspan Stadium, Fri 27 September

The pick of the games on the opening weekend sees Ulster welcome Ospreys to Kingspan Stadium as Dan McFarland’s side look to put last season’s semi-final heartache behind them.

Ulster were beaten by Glasgow Warriors in the last-four clash after finishing the 2018/19 campaign second behind Leinster in Conference B, with 13 wins from their 21 games.

Meanwhile, Ospreys capped off a rollercoaster season by defeating Welsh rivals Scarlets in their Guinness PRO14 Champions Cup play-off after finishing fourth in Conference A.

Having only finished three points behind Connacht in third, Allen Clarke’s side will feel they are more than capable of bridging that gap, especially after the signing of Gareth Anscombe.

With Alun Wyn Jones also putting pen to paper on a new deal, Ospreys are looking in good shape for the new season and will want revenge over Ulster, who beat the Welsh side 8-0 at the Liberty Stadium in the sides’ only meeting last season.

Glasgow Warriors v Leinster, Scotstoun, Sat 30 November

A dramatic finale to the 2018/19 season ended in disappointment for Glasgow Warriors as they fell at the last hurdle, losing the Guinness PRO14 final 18-15 to Leinster at Celtic Park.

Dave Rennie’s men had enjoyed an impressive campaign up until that defeat, topping Conference A in style before dispatching Ulster in their semi-final to set up a dream final on home soil.

But while it wasn’t to be in the end, they will not have to wait long to get their own back as the two finalists will meet in Round 7 in a mouth-watering encounter at Scotstoun Stadium.

Warriors do not have to go back far for memories of beating the champions either, having ended Leinster’s unbeaten record at the RDS Arena with a 39-24 triumph last season.

All in all, the two sides have faced each other on 37 occasions in the Championship, with Leinster coming out on top 22 times – a record Leo Cullen will be keen to uphold in Glasgow.

The meeting has even more relevance this season, with the two sides drawn together in Conference A.

Edinburgh v Benetton Rugby, BT Murrayfield, Fri 10 April

Benetton Rugby conjured up one of the stories of last season as they made history by becoming the first Italian team to reach the Guinness PRO14 Final Series by finishing third in Conference B.

Kieran Crowley’s side won 11 of their 21 games to progress to the knockout stages, where their run was eventually ended with a narrow 15-13 defeat to Munster at Thomond Park.

The progress made during the season was clear for all to see, however, with Benetton ultimately finishing six points clear of Conference B rivals Edinburgh in the regular season.

Despite missing out on the Final Series, Edinburgh did retain possession of the 1872 Cup after winning two of their three Scottish derby encounters against Glasgow Warriors.

They also edged out Benetton in a thrilling game at BT Murrayfield last season, prevailing 31-30, before Benetton got their own back with a 18-10 win at Stadio Monigo that eventually was the difference between the sides.

Cardiff Blues v Connacht, Cardiff Arms Park, Fri 8 May

When Connacht and Cardiff Blues meet, fireworks usually follow. The two teams played each other twice last season and finished with one win apiece after two thrilling encounters.

The Blues got the better of their first clash earlier in the year, holding off a late Connacht fightback in torrential rain to prevail 8-7 against their Conference A rivals at Cardiff Arms Park.

Owen Lane’s spectacular acrobatic try proved the difference in the end and put John Mulvihill’s team back in contention for a Guinness PRO14 Finals Series place.

But Jack Carty inspired the Irish province to a 29-22 victory in the reverse fixture at the Sportsground, securing a top three spot in Conference A in the process.

Connacht, who lost their quarter-final to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium, have the inferior record in the head-to-head with the Blues, though, winning just seven of their 32 meetings.

Scarlets v Munster, Parc y Scarlets, Sat 16 May

The 2018/19 season ended up being a frustrating one for Scarlets, who missed out on the Guinness PRO14 Final Series, finishing fourth in Conference B with ten wins from 21 games.

Their hope of resurrecting their campaign with victory in their Champions Cup play-off also didn’t go to plan, with Welsh rivals Ospreys winning the showdown 21-10 at the Liberty Stadium.

Munster, on the other hand, finished second in Conference A and progressed to the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals before losing out to the defending champions Leinster at the RDS Arena.

Despite their contrasting fortunes, though, Scarlets did land a knockout blow against Munster when the two teams met for the only time last season – winning 10-6 at Parc y Scarlets.

Ioan Nicholas’ try was the decisive factor by the time the final whistle had blown – and Scarlets will be hoping to have more than pride to play for when they meet in Round 20 this season.

 

 

2019/20 FIXTURES INFORMATION

To view all fixtures from R1-21 visit https://www.pro14rugby.org/match-centre/fixtures/

To download all fixtures directly to your calendar visit https://www.pro14rugby.org/downloadable-fixture-list/

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