Ulster V NG Dragons
The Men of Gwent have a real battle on their hands. Ravenhill is an extremely difficult place to go at the best of times. With the sudden departure of Head Coach Darren Edwards; the Dragons will be looking to further themselves from Cardiff Blues as Wales’ bottom placed region, and even leapfrog the Scarlets. Ulster, meanwhile, are in a solid playoff spot but need to ensure they don’t slip up with Ospreys and Glasgow both in a position to overtake them.
PREDICTION: ULSTER BY 10
Edinburgh V Ospreys
Edinburgh’s playoffs hopes are very faint – but they present a real challenge to a struggling Ospreys side that lost comfortably at home in the last round to Munster, while the Scottish outfit came close to toppling Scarlets in West Wales. If they are to reach the playoffs, Ospreys need to put an average Edinburgh side shorn of their stars to bed; with a bonus point win giving them a distinct advantage against their two closest rivals Glasgow and Ulster – who both have tougher matches. Look out for Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric to make a statement to the Welsh management with both players getting little game time during this Six Nations tournament. Likewise for Ross Ford –Scotland’s Lion behind Scott Lawson in the Hooker pecking order.
PREDICTION: OSPREYS BY 12
Zebre V Cardiff Blues
Neither team can make the playoffs while they languish towards the foot of the Pro12 table. The reverse fixture saw the Welsh capital concede their most embarrassing home defeat in their 10 year existence. Nothing short of a bonus point win by Cardiff Blues will satisfy the Arms Park faithful. Expect Isaia Tuifua to take the Italians on in midfield, and Kiwi scrum half Brendan Leonard to dictate play for Zebre.
PREDICTION: CARDIFF BLUES BY 19
Connacht V Treviso
Another Pro12 basement battle. Connacht at home is a very different prospect than away – just ask Toulouse. Likewise, the stronger of the Italian offering is not one for shirking a fight. Expect a tough an ugly affair at the Racecourse with less than a score deciding the outcome. Look out for fullback Robbie Henshaw to put on an encouraging display for Pat Lam’s side. The 20 year old has been released from the Irish national camp to play the fixture.
CONNACHT BY 4
Scarlets V Munster
Olly Barkley was a surprise signing for the Scarlets, and big performances in games like Saturday’s against high-flying Munster is what will earn the former Bath & Gloucester pivot-come-centre a long term deal at Parc Y Scarlets. His midfield partner is Wales ace Jonathan Davies, who is making his return from injury in a bid to take on England next Sunday at Twickenham. Meanwhile, Munster will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Pro12 table with a second win in Wales in as many weeks. Simon Zebo will be looking to impress Joe Schmidt for inclusion in the match against Italy in Dublin next Saturday.
PREDICTION: SCARLETS BY 2
Leinster V Glasgow
Following their recent win over Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors will be hoping for another away day result at the RDS. The signing of the apparent fastest man in rugby, American Carlin Isles, will certainly turn head for the Warriors –but for now, they’ll have to rely on Tommy Seymour and Chris Cusiter to spark some form against second placed Leinster in Dublin. Leinster has Springbok Zan Kirchner and Ian Maddigan to lead the strong Irish outfit, along with evergreen Leo Cullen in the pack.
PREDICTION: LEINSTER BY 16