Many Guinness PRO14 players will battle against each other in Japan but prior to then squad competition is fierce – we take a look here at Ireland’s fly-half contest – while there is plenty of Guinness PRO14 interest in the Pacific Nations Cup where Fiji take on Samoa.
These two countries have been contesting the 14th edition of the PNC and meet in Suva on Saturday, throwing up a potential clash between Fiji’s Big Bill Mata and Cardiff Blues’ all-action centre Rey Lee-Lo, of Samoa.
Both enjoyed superb campaigns last time out, Edinburgh’s Mata claiming the Guinness PRO14 Players’ Player of the Season award and Lee-Lo aging like a fine wine with the Blues – the Pacific Islanders are two of the hardest hitters around.
Aside from the difference in position Lee-Lo and Mata will likely spearhead their sides’ challenges on Saturday, as they’ve been doing in recent years for their clubs.
Last season the two players featured in the top ten statistics a number of times in the Guinness PRO14, Lee-lo fifth on defenders beaten with 57, ninth-ranked for offloads with 18 and seventh overall for clean breaks (22) – also scoring eight tries and assisting four others.
On the other side of the coin No.8 Mata rampaged to five tries and one assist but features right at the very top of a couple of other statistics, carrying the most metres by far of any forward (796m), and way out in front with 290 carries – 79 more than any other player.
Both men have featured in their sides’ first two fixtures of the Pacific Nations Cup, we’re prepared for a seismic Saturday match-up between the two this weekend.
Over to Ireland and the squad have been training at Carton House this week before meeting Italy on Saturday, and with 43 men in the squad, competition is no doubt intense.
Joe Schmidt has four fly-halves in his squad and with Johnny Sexton all but nailed on that leaves Leinster’s Ross Byrne, Munster’s Joey Carbery and Connacht’s Jack Carty jostling for position.
Carbery is the man with the caps, 18 compared with Byrne’s two and Carty’s three, while there are some interesting numbers to look at from the 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 season.
Comparisons are always tricky with three different teams involved but Carbery can claim to score the most tries per minute, with three in 568 minutes, compared with Carty’s record of four in 1249 minutes and Byrne’s one in 879.
The Munster fly-half also leads the way in goal-kicking success – 87.88% in contrast with Carty’s 78.57% and Byrne’s 73.02%.
Byrne though is a provider, with a whopping 12 assists outdoing Carty’s ten despite playing far fewer minutes.
The Leinsterman may also hope to get the nod from Schmidt from a defensive point of view, his tackle success percentage of 90.1% is well beyond his rivals – Carty 72% and Carbery at 75.4%.