Pro 14: Ulster v Munster Preview

Ulster and Munster will go head-to-head in the second of the two Irish derbies taking place on New Year's Day. 

Ulster and Munster will be looking to bounce back from last week's defeats when the square off this New Year's Day. The hosts were absolutely torn apart by an out of sorts Connacht last week while the visitors went down, at home, to fellow Irish big guns, Leinster. A new year breeds new hope, however, and these two sides are more than capable of enjoying a solid 2018.

Let's see if we can find out which of these sides will hit the ground running in 2018!

Ulster Rugby  v Munster Rugby | Monday 1 January | Kingspan Stadium | 19:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Ulster 11/20 | Draw 18/1 | Munster 32/20

Ulster Rugby

Ulster will be desperate to start living up to their potential come the early months of the new year. With such a star-studded squad, the Irish Province really should be sitting in a much healthier position at this time of the season.

Perhaps the statement made above is a bit too harsh. If it were not for last week's defeat Ulster would be sitting only five points off Pro14 Conference B leaders, The Scarlets. Sadly, success in rugby isn't based on if, buts, maybe and the odd perhaps.

The drumming they received from Connacht has left them in an extremely awkward position. They're heading into a hectic time of the season where games come thick and fast, which means player rotation is key. Unfortunately, you can't exactly rotate when you're seven points adrift of the home Pro14 play-off positions and are involved in an absolute dogfight to secure a spot in the next round of the European Rugby Champions Cup

So what does the above all mean for this week? nothing, to be honest. This is an Irish Derby and as last week proved, form and who has the better team on paper counts for very little in these games. I can actually see Ulster's 44-16 defeat to Connacht aiding them in the short-term. They'll be absolutely fired-up this weekend. Which they'll need to be as Munster will also be out to atone for a rather dismal showing against Leinster.

Munster Rugby

Johann van Graan finally got his first taste of 'Northern' criticism after his Munster side were beaten 24-34 on Boxing Day. The Munstermen put in an insipid first-half performance - perhaps they got a bit too 'merry' the previous night - and went into the half-time break trailing their opponents by 22 points.

 A rousing second-half showing from Munster did allow them to walk away with their heads held somewhat high, but questions have been asked of Van Graan's decision to rest heavy-hitter Simon Zebo. The Irish utility back is vastly experienced and could possibly have added more coolness to the Munster backline that looked a little panicked on defence.

Unlike Ulster, last weekend's defeat didn't see Munster lose ground in their conference as the Conference A leading Glasgow Warriors went down 18-17 to Edinburgh. The bad news, is that they still trail the Scottish outfit by 12 points. If Munster were to lose this one, they cold wave goodbye to their dreams of overturning Glasgow's significant lead.

Verdict: Munster 32/20
Christmas may have come and gone but rugby fans are in for yet another present as this game promises to be an absolute cracker. Last week saw both Irish derbies won by the home side. I think we'll see that change this week with Munster ending home ground monopoly by getting one over Ulster.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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