PRO14 Preview: Saturday

Date published: September 29 2017

Three games take place in the PRO14 on Saturday with Munster hosting Cardiff Blues, the Dragons tackling the Kings and Ulster facing Zebre.

Munster v Cardiff Blues

Munster’s British and Irish Lions contingent of Conor Murray, captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander are among nine changes made by Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

O’Mahony and Stander are among six changes to the pack with the international front row trio of Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan all making their first starts of the season.

Robin Copeland is another to make his first start of 2017/18, doing so alongside Billy Holland in the second row.  Tommy O’Donnell remains in situ at openside with O’Mahony and Stander returning at six and eight respectively.

Murray and Ian Keatley come in as the half-back pairing as does Jaco Taute in midfield. Partnering Rory Scannell, the South African takes charge of the outside channel for the first time this season.

No change in the back three combination – Alex Wootton, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway have to date started every game of the campaign.

Named on the bench, following a two-season spell at Northampton Saints, JJ Hanrahan is in line for his first Munster appearance since the 2015 PRO12 Final in Belfast.

Shannon lock Sean McCarthy is included in his first matchday squad this season, while new arrival from Saracens, Mark Flanagan, could make his Munster debut off the bench.

Meanwhile, Jack Roberts makes his competitive debut for Cardiff Blues as one of eight changes.

Four of those changes come alongside Roberts in the back line, with Blaine Scully returning from injury to captain the side and Tomos Willams and Jarrod Evans forming an exciting half-back partnership.

Up front, Matthew Rees returns to start at hooker, James Down and George Earle pack down at second-row and Olly Robinson steps up from the bench following an impressive debut last week.

Following a first competitive win of the season, Matt Sherratt insists there is added confidence in camp but he knows Munster present a formidable challenge and the focus must be on continued improvement.

Backs and attack coach Sherratt said: "Winning makes a massive difference. It's a result based business. People come into training a little bit more buoyant.

"We've not gone overboard because if Jarrod misses that kick (against Connacht), it's a different feeling.

"You have to stay processed, because it's too long a season to get too massively high or massively low after a result. We weren't the worst team in the championship after Edinburgh and we're not the best team in the championship after Connacht.

"We need to keep getting better every week, but having a win gives you a spring in your step and makes you look forward to the next game a little bit more

"Munster are one of the leading teams in Europe away from home and they're due to have their British and Irish Lions back playing.

"It's a really competitive championship this season and it doesn't get any more competitive than Munster away."

The Limerick-based outfit fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors last week and will be eager to put matters right.

But Sherratt believes the Blues must take confidence from a victory in Cork last season and summon the same spirit and determination.

He added: "It's a different game, we can allude to last year when we went there, certainly not as favourites but with a chance and came away with a win.

"We have to go there, be positive and try to build on the Connacht performance."

The teams:

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Robin Copeland, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Sean McCarthy, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Chris Farrell

Cardiff: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Blaine Scully (c), 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Macauley Cook, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan

Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-Off:  13:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Seán Gallagher (Ireland), Gary Conway (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Dragons v Southern Kings

Dragons coach Bernard Jackman will field a similar side to the team that beat Connacht at Rodney Parade two weeks ago.

South African full-back Carl Meyer returns to the back three to join wings Ashton Hewitt and Welsh International Hallam Amos. The centre partnership sees Tyler Morgan and Jack Dixon get the nod, whilst Gavin Henson is named at fly-half with Sarel Pretorius coming in as scrum-half.

The front row sees hooker Elliot Dee named alongside props Brok Harris and Leon Brown, whilst Matthrew Screech joins skipper Cory Hill in the second row as flankers James Thomas and Ollie Griffiths line up next to number 8 James Benjamin.

The replacements bench sees Ellis Shipp named along with Thomas Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Aaron Wainwright, Dane Blacker, Angus O’Brien, Thretton Palamo.

Meanwhile, Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids has handed a starting place to Jacques Nel at centre in place of Luzuko Vulindlu who drops to the bench and veteran finisher Alshaun Bock replaces Sibusiso Sithole on the left wing.

The only other change amongst the backline is injury-enforced and sees Godlen Masimla take over at scrumhalf from Rudi van Rooyen. Rowan Gouws is included in the matchday 23 as replacement scrum-half on the bench.

There has been some shuffling in the Southern Kings pack too. Martin Dreyer gets a chance to stake his claim at tighthead prop in the absence of Luvuyo Pupuma who has been ruled out for at least four weeks with a rotator cuff injury.

Bobby De Wee gets a start at lock in place of Dries Van Schalkwyk who makes the switch to number eight – a position he filled with some distinction for Italian club Zebre last season.

The man who wore the number eight jersey for the Kings last weekend, Andile Ntsila, shifts to the side of the scrum where he takes over from Khaya Majola at flank. Majola is included on the bench. Making it all-change from the loose trio who did duty against Zebre last weekend, Jurie van Vuuren returns as number seven flank in place of Victor Sekekete.

Hooker Michael Willemse will once again captain the Kings team which welcomes back prop Entienne Swanepoel on the bench after a compulsory break due to concussion and there is also place found amongst the replacements for lock Lubabalo Mtyanda.

Coach Davids said he was satisfied with the team’s work rate and that they were showing signs of improvement each week: “I have made a few changes for this weekend’s match against the Dragons and given different players the chance to impress and stake their claim to a starting place in the Kings team. I believe that they will take advantage of the opportunity.”

Despite a few strong 40-minute halves in the PRO14 so far this season, the Kings are still looking for a complete 80-minute performance and Coach Davids has challenged his team to deliver that at the Rodney Parade on Saturday. The Kings are still searching for their first win of the campaign whilst the home side have managed just one win themselves and come off the back of a stinging 52-25 defeat away to Ulster last weekend.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 James Thomas, 5 Cory Hill (c), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Thretton Palamo

Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Martin Dreyer, 2 Michael Willemse (c), 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Entienne Swanepoel, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Khaya Majola, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Oliver Zono, 23 Luzuko Vulindlu

Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-Off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Andy Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Gareth John (Wales)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

Zebre v Ulster

There will be only one change in the Zebre starting line-up compared to the XV at Nelson Mandela Bay, with tighthead prop Dario Chistolini returning in the number three jersey.

On the bench, there is first season call for young Italian international Luhandre Luus – who has recovered from his pre-season injury – and for Argentinian prop Eduardo Bello, one of the latest arrivals in the Zebre roster.

The 21-year-old, born in Cordoba, arrived in Parma from his hometown club. The prop has got one cap with the Pumas against Uruguay in May 2016.

Meanwhile, Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has named ten internationals in his starting team.

Andrew Trimble captains the side and will equal Roger Wilson’s record of 221 appearances for Ulster. The 32-year-old has been named on the right wing, with Louis Ludik (left wing) and Charles Piutau (full-back) completing the back three.

John Cooney and Christian Lealiifano return to occupy the half back positions, while Luke Marshall will partner Darren Cave in midfield.

Hooker John Andrew will make his first start of the season and will be joined in the front row by experienced props Callum Black and Rodney Ah You.

Pete Browne and Iain Henderson form a mobile second row partnership, while Kiss has selected a loose forward combination of Matty Rea, Sean Reidy and Jean Deysel.

Abbey Insurance Academy hooker Adam McBurney could make his first competitive appearance for Ulster after being named among the replacements.

Andrew Warwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney, Man of the Match in last week’s 52-25 win against Dragons, will provide further cover for the forward unit.

Dave Shanahan, Pete Nelson and Rob Lyttle are the backline options in Kiss’ 23-man panel.

The teams:

Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (c), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumow, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Andrew Trimble (c), 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Peter Browne, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 John Andrew, 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Rob Lyttle

Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Stadio Lianfranchi, Parma
Kick-off: 14:35 local (13:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)