All eyes will be on the Lions’ clash with the Stormers in Johannesburg and the Sharks’ trip to the Bullring in the seventh round of the United Rugby Championship this weekend.
Friday 28 October
Glasgow Warriors 43/100 | Draw 23/1 | Benetton 39/20 (20:35)
Glasgow (-5.5) 17/20 | Benetton (+5.5) 17/20
After their game against the Lions in Joburg was postponed a week ago, Warriors face a stern test against a solid Benetton outfit at the Scotstoun. It remains to be seen just how fit the Glaswegians will be heading into this one after the squad’s bout of E. coli. On top of that, the side has a growing injury list with which to contend.
Benetton may have fallen to an eventual 22-44 loss at home to the Bulls a week ago, but that result wasn’t a true reflection of the contest. They trailed by a single point with less than nine-minutes to play but conceded three-converted tries late on which inflated the scoreline a great deal.
The Italian club gave the Bulls a few headaches at set piece time and should fancy their chances on the road here with a similar display. Back them to cause an upset in Glasgow.
Scarlets 28/10 | Draw 22/1| Leinster 29/100 (20:35)
Scarlets (+8.5) 17/20 | Leinster (-8.5) 17/20
Scarlets are 15th after losing four times and picking up just one win so far this season. Dwayne Peel’s boys are seriously struggling and head into this one off the back of a 14-36 defeat at Connacht. There isn’t much to suggest they will be able to hold their own against the competition’s best this weekend.
Leinster are riding high after their great 27-13 defeat of arch-rivals Munster at the Aviva; their sixth win from six so far.
With the November internationals just a week away, Leo Cullen’s star internationals are on Ireland duty, but the Rhys Ruddock-led team should still be good enough to clear a very modest handicap here.
Saturday 29 October
Lions | Draw | Stormers
The Lions have a great opportunity to knock over the Stormers here, coming fresh off a bye following the postponement of their match with Glasgow. The Joburgers are eighth with three wins from five after putting in some seriously eye-catching performances so far – particularly on their overseas tour.
Spearheaded by their young up-and-comers, the new sense of optimism around Emirates Airline Park isn’t misplaced and there’s every reason to believe they will be right in the playoff mix come the season’s end.
The Stormers fell off a bit at the backend of their Euro tour, drawing with Ospreys and losing to Cardiff (albeit both in torrid conditions), but they’ll be eager to make up for that with their next three games based in SA. First up is a tough assignment at altitude against a Lions side growing in confidence and who won’t have to contend with the disruption caused by Springbok call-ups.
This is set to be a typically tight and physical local derby on the highveld. Get on the visitors to lose within the handicap here.
Munster 1/1| Draw 20/1 | Ulster 17/20 (18:15)
Munster (11th) can make a big statement after their loss in Dublin by hitting back immediately against Ulster at Thomond Park. Not for the first time in clashes between Leinster and Munster, the Red Army just couldn’t find a way to break down the blue defence, which ultimately cost them yet again. They’ll have another shot at improving in this department against second-placed Ulster, but it’ll be far from a cakewalk.
The Northern Irishmen are a week on from the postponement of their clash with the Sharks in Durban after the Norovirus outbreak in their squad. It remains to be seen just how fit the team will be, but they always raise their game for derbies against their southern foes and should still be competitive.
Playing at home and needing a big performance to bounce back from their defeat last week, get on Munster to clear the ‘cap.
Dragons | Draw | Zebre
Dragons last week claimed a fantastic 32-25 win over an Ospreys outfit laden with top Wales Test players – Alun Wyn Jones, Rhys Webb, George North and Tomas Francis among them. For a side that perennially finishes near the very bottom of the table, getting one over last season’s Welsh Shield winners will give them a big boost as they prep to host winless Zebre at Rodney Parade.
Fabio Roselli’s charges had some typically sparkling attacking moments against a good Edinburgh team last week but ultimately succumbed to defeat yet again. They have it in them to keep pace with Dragons here, but the full-throated Newport faithful may just overwhelm them in the end.
Zebre on the plus.
Ospreys | Draw | Connacht
Ospreys copped a disappointing seven-point defeat at Rodney Parade, with three losses, two draws and just one win in the competition this season. For such a talented squad, it’s somewhat perplexing, and it doesn’t get any easier with a trip to South Africa to take on the Bulls and Stormers next up.
Connacht were good in their defeat of Scarlets last week and should take that momentum into Swansea for this one. The Irish club are languishing in 14th though, just three-points off their opponents this week, and need to keep the Ws ticking over if they are to defend their Welsh Shield crown this season.
This will be another tight one but Ospreys should have the goods at home.
Sunday 30 October
Bulls | Draw | Sharks
Sunday’s clash at Loftus will be talismanic Bulls skipper Marcell Coetzee’s last in the URC until at least late April, with the 31-Test loose forward joining the Kobe Steelers for the Japan League One season after the weekend. The hosts will be looking to send him on his way in positive fashion, but to do that they’ll need to improve markedly on their performance from last week.
Last season’s runners-up were made to work exceptionally hard by a dogged Benetton outfit in Treviso in Round 6 before scoring three converted efforts late on. If their set piece isn’t up to scratch here the Sharks will make them pay.
Unlike their opponents this week, the Durbanites will have to deal with the departure of a number of regular Springboks. That said, they still boast an impressive array of second-string talent who proved in their performance against Leinster in Dublin that they can mix it with the best of them.
Defence will be key for the Sharks given some recent struggles in this department. But if their front rankers get ascendency at scrumtime, their talent backs should see to the rest.
It could well come down to the accuracy of the kickers, and I’m backing the Sharks’ dominant scrum to lay the platform for a narrow win at Loftus. Take the Bulls on the plus.
Cardiff | Draw | Edinburgh
Cardiff are riding high after beating Scarlets, Dragons and Stormers in successive rounds to see them rise to first on the Welsh Shield and sixth overall. Dai Young’s charges have been mighty impressive so far, particularly in their defeat of the Stormers last week, and they may even push for a Champions Cup place given the performances of the rest of the Welsh regions this season.
Edinburgh have also put in some big showings recently and sit just one point and one place above their hosts this week. With Scotland hosting the Wallabies at Murrayfield on Saturday, Mike Blair’s men will be without their internationals which could give Cardiff the edge.
The hosts should capitalise on an understrength Edinburgh team to win here.
DINK 🤌 Hollywood Ball, Hollywood Finish!— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) October 25, 2022
⏪ Rewind to @jaaaarod's stunner against @EdinburghRugby!
🙌 Looking forward to welcoming our friends from the Scottish capital to @ArmsParkCardiff on Sunday (KO 3pm!) Edrych ymlaen i groesawu'r Albanwyr yn ôl i Gymru!