Champions Collide

Charlie Talbot-Smith
20 July 2019

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Seven of the Guinness PRO14 sides have won it all since the play-off structure was introduced.

In that time there have been some epic finals – and with the unveiling of the 2019/20 fixture list the eye is immediately drawn to what promise to be some rousing rematches.

And considering every side that has ever been to a Guinness PRO14 final has tasted victory at least once – it’s time to preview when champions collide.

Our first finals re-match arrives in Round 2 and it is the two most successful sides in the history of this league going head to head.

Leinster with six titles and Ospreys with four face off at the RDS on a Friday night in early October.

Ospreys have twice beaten Leinster on the biggest stage of all, back in 2010 and 2012, but since then have failed to make it back to the final.

But they were a side re-born under Allen Clarke last year, are back in the Champions Cup and will be itching to put one over Leinster who in recent years have pulled away from them for Championship wins.

Then in Round 6 at the start of November, we are off the Sportsground on a Friday night for an inter-pro with real added spice.

Connacht’s first and so-far only title came back in 2016 at BT Murrayfield when they downed Leinster.

Since then Leinster have bounced back to claim back to back crowns while Connacht suffered an initial blip dealing with life after Pat Lam.

But under Andy Friend the men from Galway are back to their best and will be hoping to give Leinster another stern examination at the Sportsground.

Round 7 at the end of November will see all eyes turn to Scotstoun at the first meeting of Glasgow Warriors and Leinster.

It was only two months ago that Leinster claimed their sixth crown by narrowly holding off the Scots.

And with Glasgow making off with an impressive win at the RDS last season as well, there will be plenty on the line for Dave Rennie’s side with the big names likely to be back in action after the Rugby World Cup.

Just before Christmas, and it will be all eyes on the RDS again.

Leinster downed Ulster in the 2013 final here and the men from Belfast have not won in Dublin since that same year, earlier in the regular season.

The festive fixture list rolls on with more inter-pros and the 28th December at Thomond Park sees the two old enemies Munster and Leinster go head to head.

These two greats have not met in a final since 2011 – the last of Munster’s three crowns – but the hosts will be itching to maintain their fine Thomond Park record.

And after losing to Leinster in the semi-finals in each of the last two years, Munster have a point to prove.

Then in the first round of games in 2020 – Leinster and Connacht get reacquainted before in Round 12 it is Ospreys welcoming Leinster to the Liberty Stadium.

By the end of February and Round 13 we have two mouth-watering match-ups to get excited about.

On Friday night, Leinster are back at the RDS in another final re-match with Glasgow at the RDS – who won here earlier in 2019.

And then on the Saturday, Munster and Scarlets go head to head at Thomond Park in a rematch of the 2017 final.

The Scarlets emerged victorious back then, but are now under control of Brad Mooar with Wayne Pivac departed to take charge of Wales, and Munster will be keen to set the record straight.

In the middle of April, the Aviva Stadium plays host to Leinster and Munster’s re-match on a Saturday evening of round 17.

A week later and Munster welcome Glasgow Warriors to Thomond Park.

This was the 2015 final, that saw the Warriors claim their first and so far only title.

And Munster, runners-up twice since their last crown, must be at their best as the season reaches the business end.

Round 19 and we are in West Wales to see the Scarlets host Leinster in an intriguing clash that mirrors that high-scoring dramatic 2018 final.

Jordan Larmour’s heroics and Johnny McNicholl’s hat-trick in a losing cause were the highlights that day in Dublin, what the Llanelli fans would give for more of that drama, if hopefully a different result, at the start of May.

It is a tough run-in for Scarlets who a week later then have the other Irish powerhouses in Munster arriving in west Wales.

And then in the final round of derby games before the Final Series, Ulster will be at the Kingspan hoping to take care of defending champions Leinster.

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