Rugby Union Today: Short side and 2021 predictions

Date published: January 7 2021

Another busy day in the rugby union game as we look ahead to this weekend’s matches in the Premiership and PRO14, and discuss what may happen in 2021.

What’s on the site

There are several big contests in the Premiership and PRO14 this weekend, including Exeter v Bristol and Leinster v Ulster, and all the main talking points are discussed in ‘The short side.’

There are also previews of those encounters, with Jordan Larmour starting for the Dubliners and Jacob Stockdale missing out for Ulster due to injury, while in the Premiership, Jack Willis shifts to number eight for Wasps.

Elsewhere, it will hopefully be a big year in the sport after 2020 was disrupted by coronavirus. We have made a number of bold predictions as to what could occur over the next 12 months, with France in particular set to shine.

What’s in the news

Legendary second-row Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national team as forwards coach, with Simon Easterby becoming defence specialist. O’Connell won 108 caps for the country and has had coaching experience with the U20 side and Stade Francais.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues have confirmed the departure of boss John Mulvihill for personal reasons. Former head coach Dai Young returns to the region and takes interim charge.

Another bit of coaching news sees Ulster’s Dan McFarland signing a new contract with the province following an impressive start to their PRO14 season, winning all 10 of their matches so far.

Finally, Gloucester’s Ed Slater has been banned for four weeks while Sale’s Dan du Preez has received a three-week suspension for incidents in the game at Kingsholm last weekend.

What’s on social media

Probably the least surprising news of the year so far.

What’s on TV

It is the final round of domestic action in Europe before the Champions Cup resumes. The Premiership kicks off on Friday as Bath face Wasps and Sale Sharks take on Worcester Warriors on BT Sport.

Premier Sports has all the PRO14 action and it is once again a derby weekend, with the top of the table clash between Leinster and Ulster the standout fixture.

Meanwhile, it is the final round of the Currie Cup and it will be shown on Sky Sports. They will only broadcast Griquas v Free State Cheetahs, however, with Western Province v Sharks cancelled due to Covid-19.