Pro 14: Round 1 Preview

The inaugural Pro 14 kicks off on Friday the 31st of August. We preview the first set of fixtures below.

The Pro 12, or the Celtic League, will be reborn this Friday evening with the Cheetahs and Kings jaunt North seeing the tournament not only change its name but also its structure. While many pundits have written the tournament’s chances of being a success off, it will be an interesting experiment regardless of the result.
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So, for the first time ever, let’s take a look at the first ever set of Pro 14 fixtures!

Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh Rugby | Friday 1 September | Cardiff Arms Park | 20:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Cardiff 9/20 | Draw 20/1 | Edinburgh 18/10

Cardiff and Edinburgh go head-to-head in one of the simultaneous kick-off fixtures this Friday evening. The hosts come into this year’s tournament off the back of winning last year’s Pro 12. They have a very handy squad and have every chance of claiming silverware once again.

Edinburgh had a much tougher time of it in last year’s Pro 14 as they only managed to win six of their 22 fixtures. And while they signed some decent enough players during the off-season, I highly doubt we’ll see the ‘Scots competing at the upper echelons of the table this term.

Verdict: Cardiff 9/20
The hosts shouldn’t have any troubles seeing off their visitors this Friday evening.

Ulster Rugby v Free State Cheetahs | Friday 1 September | Kingspan Stadium | 20:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Ulster 3/10 | Draw 20/1 | Cheetahs 28/10

The Cheetahs opening game against Ulster could become one of the most important moments in South African rugby history. With SANZAAR’s main provincial level product now about as potent as a shot of water, the remaining South African Super Rugby franchises may look to emulate the trailblazing Kings and Cheetahs come the close of the 2019 World Cup.

The Cheetahs really do have a stiff test here as Ulster are a solid side filled with some of the best young talent Ireland has to offer. On top of this, there’s a bit of rain floating about Ulster at the moment which may make conditions underfoot rather tricky, especially considering the Cheetahs are used to playing on a hard, dry Bloemfontein track.

Verdict: Ulster 3/10
They may have lost Ruan Pienaar and one or two other senior statesmen but Ulster have a massive advantage here being at home. I also think it may take the Cheetahs some time to find their feet in European conditions.

Munster v Treviso | Saturday 2 September | Thomond Park | 20:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Munster 1/100 | Draw 24/1 | Treviso 15/1

I’m not going to waste your time here with a long-winded spiel about off season transfers or warm up game results as there’s simply no point looking into those as Treviso are going to catch a hiding here. The Italian club only managed to win five games last year, and conceded the second highest amount of points in the tournament.

Verdict: Munster 1/100
You could put the house on a straight win and not have to break a sweat. Also, if you get offered a minus handicap under 35 points, I suggest having a solid strike on it!

Ospreys v Zebre | Saturday 2 September | Liberty Stadium | 15:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Ospreys 1/100 | Draw 25/1 | Zebre 17/1

This is another game that we’ll briefly go through as Zebre were even worse than their fellow countrymen from Treviso during last year’s Pro 12. The Italian side lost 18 of their 22 fixtures last term while their opponents for this weekend managed to win 14 of their 22 fixtures.

Verdict: Ospreys 1/100
Like Munster, Ospreys will have no trouble running up a mammoth score here. As such, any minus handicap under 38 offers great value.

Newport Gwent Dragons v Leinster Rugby | Saturday 2 September | Rodney Parade |

To Win (80 Mins)
Dragons 3/1 | Draw 23/1 | Leinster 1/4

Leinster will be looking to pick up from where they left off last year when they take on a Dragons outfit that only managed to avoid the 2016 Pro 12 wooden spoon accolade by just four points. Leinster have every chance of opening up their campaign with a big win as their squad contains a lot more quality than that of their hosts.

Verdict: Leinster 1/4
Like the Ospreys and Munster, Leinster should have no problems bagging the full points haul from this one.

Llanelli Scarlets v Southern Kings | Saturday 2 September | Parc Y Scarlets | 18:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Scarlets 1/20 | Draw 28/1 | Kings 1/8

The Scarlets entertain the Kings in the opening week’s penultimate fixture. The hosts had a solid 2016/17 Pro 12 campaign finishing in third position during the regular season. They have some exceedingly talented Welsh youngsters in their side, parcticualarrly in the midfield. And while the Kings do come into this one off the back of a strong showing in Super Rugby, they have lost a heap of those the players that performed so admirably during the tournament.

Verdict: Scarlets 1/20
It’s unfortunate but I think this threadbare Kings side are in for a bit of a wake-up call this Saturday evening.

Connacht Rugby v Glasgow Warriors | Saturday 2 September | Galway Sportsgrounds | 20:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Connacht 17/20 | Draw 19/1 | Glasgow 1/1

That old adage of saving the best for last certainly rings true here with Connacht and Glasgow set to lock horns in an ultra-competitive affair at Galway Sports Grounds this Saturday. The Warriors had a sensational European campaign last season and were unlucky to advance further in the European Rugby Champions Cup. Their European run did hurt the slightly when it came to the Pro 12 as they were only able to muster up a sixth place finish. Connacht also failed to really live up to their billing during last season’s Pro 14 as they could only muster up a ninth-place finish.

Verdict: Glasgow 1/1
I’m going for the away team here. They have a solid squad and should be able to see off a Connacht side that is well and truly on the wane.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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