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GUINNESS PRO14: Round 9 Preview

GUINNESS PRO14: Round 9 Preview

After round 8 produced more thrilling rugby and a total of 44 tries, the GUINNESS PRO14 resumes this weekend with games taking place in Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Wales. The race to reach the final at the Aviva Stadium on May 26 is really starting to take shape with Glasgow Warriors in control of Conference A, while the Scarlets, last season’s winners, are just ahead of the chasing pack in Conference B.

Round 9 will see some new faces enter the Championship with Johann van Graan taking charge of Munster for the first time when they travel to Zebre, while Edinburgh’s new signing Jaco van der Walt arrives just in time to join their touring party to his native South Africa. Also, Leinster will hope that former Crusaders star James Lowe can make an instant impact after his recent arrival in Dublin.

On Friday night Ulster take on Benetton Rugby in Conference B where the province will face a tough proposition at Kingspan Stadium as the hosts aim to stay hot on the heels of the table-topping Scarlets. The Italians are in contention for the Champions Cup play-off position with Edinburgh, who will begin their tour to South Africa in Bloemfontein when they take on the Toyota Cheetahs – also on Friday night.

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Friday’s other game sees Cardiff Blues entertain Connacht, who are separated by just one point in Conference A, while in Conference B, Leinster welcome Bernard Jackman’s Dragons to the RDS. The 2014 champions are third in the table, seven points off the Scarlets, and victory in Dublin will be vital to stay in touch. 

Like Edinburgh, the Scarlets begin a two-game tour of South Africa this weekend with the Southern Kings first up. The Kings earned their first two Championship points of the season in their highly-entertaining fixture with Ulster in round 8 where they came up just short in a 43-36 loss. 

Glasgow Warriors will attempt to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they travel to the Ospreys on Sunday afternoon. It is a case of top-versus-bottom in Conference A and although both teams have supplied a number of players to the Scottish and Welsh national teams during the November internationals, each side has a tremendous reputation for producing world class talent and this game at Liberty Stadium will showcase their pedigree in this department.

Eurosport Italia and Sky Sports Action will broadcast live from Parma as three-time champions Munster face a potentially tricky trip to Zebre who have been showing signs of positive improvement this season. The Italian side feature consistently across the Opta Team Rankings released this week, sitting in the top five for turnovers won (52), breaks (90), offloads (103), defenders beaten (172) and metres gained (3,746).

Munster’s new head coach van Graan makes his first appearance in the coaches’ box since taking over from Rassie Erasmus. Munster are second in Conference A and if they are to keep in touch with Glasgow Warriors then they cannot afford to slip up in this game.

Zebre have already beaten Ulster at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi this season, but Munster travel having never lost to their Italian opponents, while their last Championship loss in Italy came back in 2013 at Benetton Rugby.


Friday, November 24 –

Cardiff Blues (5th, Con A) v CONNACHT (4th, Con A), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live BBC 2 Wales)

LEINSTER (3rd, Con B) v Dragons (6th, Con B), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4)

Toyota Cheetahs (3rd, Con A) v Edinburgh (4th, Con B), Toyota Stadium, 7.30pm local time (live SuperSport 1/BBC ALBA)

ULSTER (2nd, Con B) v Benetton Rugby (5th, Con B), Kingspan Stadium, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

Sunday, November 26 –

Ospreys (7th, Con A) v Glasgow Warriors (1st, Con A), Liberty Stadium, 1pm

Southern Kings (7th, Con B) v Scarlets (1st, Con B), Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 3pm local time (live SuperSport 1/S4C)

Zebre (6th, Con A) v MUNSTER (2nd, Con A), Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 2.30pm local time/1.30pm Irish time (live Sky Sports Action/Eurosport Italia/highlights TG4)



Ernst Stapelberg (Toyota Cheetahs) 72
Carlo Canna (Zebre) 61
Gavin Henson (Dragons) 60
John Cooney (Ulster) 57
Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) 56


Makazole Mapimpi (Toyota Cheetahs) 8
Elliot Dee (Dragons) 5
Torsten van Jaarsveld (Toyota Cheetahs) 5
Angelo Esposito (Benetton Rugby) 5
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 5
Alex Wootton (Munster) 5


Steff Evans (Scarlets) 8
Darren Sweetnam (Munster) 6
Luke McGrath (Leinster) 5
Steve Shingler (Cardiff Blues) 5
Duncan Williams (Munster) 5


Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) 602
Charles Piutau (Ulster) 591
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 542
Steff Evans (Scarlets) 539
Matteo Minozzi (Zebre) 530


Bundee Aki (Connacht) 117
Tommaso Castello (Zebre) 106
Olly Cracknell (Ospreys) 105
Andisa Ntsila (Southern Kings) 91
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 91


Steff Evans (Scarlets) 15
Makazole Mapimpi (Toyota Cheetahs) 14
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 12
Mattia Bellini (Zebre) 12
Andrew Trimble (Ulster) 11


Steff Evans (Scarlets) 34
Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues) 28
Charles Piutau (Ulster) 25
Renato Giammarioli (Zebre) 24
Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) 23
Jeff Hassler (Ospreys) 23


John Cooney (Ulster) 558
Marcello Violi (Zebre) 553
Kieran Marmion (Connacht) 553
Tom Habberfield (Ospreys) 510
Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues) 423


Steff Evans (Scarlets) 20
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 20
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 15
Charles Piutau (Ulster) 13
Alex Wootton (Munster) 13

Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 13


Jack Carty (Connacht) 60
Carlo Canna (Zebre) 58
Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) 49
Gavin Henson (Dragons) 49
Ian Keatley (Munster) 47


Andisa Ntsila (Southern Kings) 104
Paul Schoeman (Toyota Cheetahs) 98
Tommy O’Donnell (Munster) 95
James Benjamin (Dragons) 94
Josh Turnbull (Cardiff Blues) 92


Reniel Hugo (Toyota Cheetahs) 42
Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) 33
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) 32
Jake Ball (Scarlets) 29
Dries van Schalkwyk (Southern Kings) 25


Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets) 17
Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues) 8
Scott Williams (Scarlets) 8
Michael Willemse (Southern Kings) 8
Tommaso Castello (Zebre) 8
Carlo Canna (Zebre) 8
Derick Minnie (Zebre) 8

For more statistics, please visit www.pro14rugby.org/powered-by-opta