PRO 14: 2019/20 Season Preview

Rugby Players enter a scrum

The PRO 14 will get underway Friday the 27th of September. Darry Worthington takes a look at the tournament and gives his verdict on which side will lift the trophy. 

The 2019/20 PRO14 season is sure to be an interesting one with a number of internationals set to miss the first few rounds of the tournament due to World Cup commitments.

The two hardest hit sides with regards to World Cup duty are likely to be last season's finalists, Leinster and Glasgow, who have a number of players away with the Irish and Scottish national teams. Sides such as Connacht, Ulster, Munster and Edinburgh will also be without star players which will give teams like the Cheetahs, who only have a few Namibian internationals missing for the start of the tournament.

A fast start from one of the lesser fancied teams could well throw the cat amongst the pigeons.

To Win Outright
Leinster 12/10
Glasgow  7/2
Munster 7/2
Ulster 14/1
Scarlets 20/1
Edinburgh 20/1
Connacht 20/1
Ospreys 25/1
Cardiff Blues 25/1
Treviso 50/1
Cheetahs 66/1
Dragons 200/1
Zebre 250/1
Southern Kings 250/1

Contenders

Leinster
2018/19 Finish: Champions
The reigning champions will be without a number of their international stars for the first few weeks. They faced a similar situation last season with the likes of Jonathan Sexton rested for large periods to ensure he wasn't knackered prior to the World Cup.

While Leinster have a deep playing squad with a number of academy graduates ready to step up in the absence of the season pros, one can't help but feel they may well struggle during the opening salvos of the campaign. Their veteran internationals may also be at risk of burnout headed into the back end of the tournament as they will have participated in the World Cup as well as next year's Six Nations.

Player to Watch: Ross Byrne
With Connacht's Jack Carty seemingly having the inside track to being Ireland's third-choice fly-half at the World Cup, Ross Byrne is likely to remain with Leinster for the start of the PRO14.

The 24-year-old was Johnny Sexton's understudy last term with former back-up Joey Carbery having moved on. Byrne performed admirably and showed that he should be the man to fill Sexton's boots when the Irish legend hangs up his boots.

He can further stake his claim as heir apparent to Sexton's throne this term with the first choice Irish pivot likely to miss a huge swath of the season due to Six Nations and World cup commitments as well as fatigue.

Glasgow
2018/19 Finish: Runners-Up

The Scottish club were extremely unfortunate to miss out on the trophy last year as they were pipped 15-18 by Leinster in the final.

Like Leinster, Glasgow will be without a number of stalwarts at the start of the season with Huw Jones, and Adam Hastings all involved in Scotland's World Cup plans, while talismanic fullback Stewart Hogg has moved to the Exeter Chiefs.  They could also be without South African born Kyle Steyn who was called up to Gregor Towsend's national squad after the youngster had a great debut season.

Player to Watch: DTH van der Merwe
While he'll missing the opening salvos of the campaign due to World Cup commitments with Canada, Van der Merwe is likely to return from Japan rather early with his country set to bomb out in the opening rounds.

The winger/centre has been prolific since joining the Warriors and you can expect him to grab a number of tries again this season.

Munster
2018/19 Finish: Semi-Finalists
The second Irish Province on the contender's list. Munster haven't been as badly hit by World Cup call-ups as the other big-name clubs. While they will miss their influential half-back pairing of Connor Murray and Joey Carberry during the opening few rounds Munster will still be able to call on a plethora of talented players to fill in for their international stars.

Munster will be keen to advance further than they did last season as they fell to Leinster in the semi-finals. Their squad has improved over each year and they could well make the final this season.

Player to Watch: Chris Cloete
The former Southern Kings stalwart has endured an injury-plagued couple of season at Munster. When Cloete is fit he is an absolute nightmare to play against - terrorizing opponents at the breakdown and putting in hard hits all over the park.

Dark Horse

Free State Cheetahs
2018/19 Finish: Sixth in Conference A

The Free State Cheetahs will be looking for a much-improved campaign having finished sixth on the Conference A standings. This was a poor follow up to their debut campaign which saw them make the knock out phase of the tournament.

The South Africans have looked good thus far in the Currie Cup and will take a very settled squad into the PRO14. They have also acquired the services of former Springbok Ruan Pienaar, whose European know-how could give the Cheetahs and extra dimension.

Player to Watch: Rabz Maxwane
The Dale College old boy enjoyed a marvellous season last time around topping the try-scoring charts with 14 tries. His electric turn of pace should see him bag a whole lot more this season, although he will need to improve his kicking game if he is to become the complete package.

Verdict: Cheetahs 66/1
I think there's a lot of value with the outsiders this year particularly the Cheetahs. They will come into the tournament off the back of the Currie Cup which means they'll be ready to hit the ground running.

My play here is to back the Cheetahs early and then wait until December and perhaps go have a strike on Leinster who may have a big price attached to their names due to a slow start.



Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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