Rivalry Unrivalled: Alby Mathewson v David Shanahan

Joe Leavey
06 November 2019

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This weekend heralds the first derby offerings of the Guinness PRO14 season, with all four Irish sides going head to head in a mouth-watering Round 6.

So far, their starts to the new campaign have been peerless: the four outfits occupy the top two spots in both Conference A and B and have lost just three games between them out of a sum total 20, but this weekend something has to give.

Connacht and Leinster get us underway on Friday night, before Ulster head to Thomond Park on Saturday for the late afternoon kick off, where two of the competition’s in-form scrum-halves will go head-to-head.

Two sides blessed with options in the nine jersey, Nick McCarthy and John Cooney have both starred for Munster and Ulster respectively so far, but after standout displays last time out, Mathewson and Shanahan would feel aggrieved to miss out on a starting berth in Limerick.

Handed his first start of the season against Zebre, the 26-year-old Shanahan certainly made his mark, completing 117 passes – more than anyone has notched up in a single game all season.

To put the number into context, Dewaldt Duvenage was second in the passing statistics for Round 5 with 77, and if there’s one thing you want from your scrum-half, it’s a desire to see plenty of the ball.

It is a statistic that Ulster as a team dominate, with an average of almost 165 passes per match good enough to lead the Guinness PRO14 by over 10; the scrum-half’s central role is absolutely pivotal to their brand of rugby.

Mathewson made 71 as Munster beat the Cardiff Blues on the road, but the New Zealander’s is a truly complete contribution to his side’s output.

He has three tries to his name in 175 minutes of rugby, averages over 4m per carry and is an effective in-game kicker; a Swiss Army knife of a player, the 33-year-old will be crucial for the Red Army on Saturday.

Shanahan, for his part, has notched up a pair of tries and is a piercing ball carrier and support runner, averaging 6.8m per carry on the 10 that he has made thus far.

For two sides that will look to impose themselves on the game from the off and dictate play where possible, this will surely be the battle to watch out for when two of the Guinness PRO14’s in-form sides – and bitter rivals to-boot – face off this weekend.


Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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