Jump to main content


GUINNESS PRO14: Semi-Finals Preview

GUINNESS PRO14: Semi-Finals Preview

After 149 games, only four teams remain in the race to reach the GUINNESS PRO14 final next Saturday (May 26) and claim the title as the first champions of Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.

It has been another terrific season as the GUINNESS PRO14 continues to go from strength to strength with attendances up 16%, another new try-scoring record set with a tally of 861, while in European competition teams from the Championship continued to best their rivals from other leagues.

As well as the introduction of the Conference format, another new innovation this season is the introduction of the Champions Cup qualification play-off game to decide who will take the PRO14’s seventh place in EPCR’s top competition. This weekend Ulster will represent Conference B against the Ospreys who are representing Conference A.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article


Friday, May 18 –

GLASGOW WARRIORS (1st, Con A) v SCARLETS (2nd, Con B), Scotstoun Stadium, 7.45pm (live Sky Sports Action, BBC ALBA, BBC 2 Wales)

To sum up the challenge awaiting the defending champions in Glasgow, consider this: out of a possible 50 match points, the Warriors have won 49 at Scotstoun this season. It is such incredible form that has made Glasgow’s home a true fortress under new coach Dave Rennie and with their artificial surface the hosts know exactly how to step on the accelerator.

However, the Scarlets made their name – and won last season’s title – by playing a dashing brand of rugby that is predicated on fearless offloading and hunting like a pack at the breakdown. The Llanelli side’s tally of 158 turnovers, in the Opta rankings, is second only to Cardiff Blues (169) and players like Tadhg Beirne and James Davies will be in position to punish any loose play by Glasgow Warriors.

In order do that, the Scarlets will have to try and restrain their hosts who led the PRO14 during the regular season in metres gained and clean breaks. For the Welshmen, the rejuvenation led by head coach Wayne Pivac over the past couple of seasons has created a team that pays little heed to the records of others. Last season they became the first team to ever win a PRO12 semi-final away from home and that will provide so much belief in this fixture.

Saturday, May 19 –

LEINSTER (1st, Con B) v MUNSTER (2nd, Con A), the RDS, 3.15pm (live TG4/Sky Sports Action)

If you wondered if the heat had cooled from this age-old rivalry then Saturday’s affair should prove the folly in that argument. Coming off their fourth European Cup title, Leinster now aim to complete a double by winning the PRO14, while Munster are desperate to claim their first silverware since 2011 having lost two domestic finals in the past four years. 

In Leinster their former players spoke of how Munster’s European success sparked a drive within the blue ranks to be better, more consistent and to claim trophies at home and abroad. Since 2008, the year Munster won their last European Cup, Leinster have won the Championship three times and triumphed in Europe four times, five if you include their Challenge Cup win in 2013.

Doubtless, Munster take little joy about fuelling Leinster’s ambition – and success – and this semi-final encounter provides the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Keith Earls, Conor Murray and CJ Stander with the opportunity to take on Europe’s best and claim a scalp of their own.

The Scarlets’ semi-final victory in Dublin last season was the first for an away team in the Championship knockout stages, so history will provide no barrier to the men in red. Energy supplies may also be on their side having had a two-week lead-in to prepare, while Leo Cullen’s Leinster were busy in Bilbao dealing with an incredibly physical Racing 92 team.


Sunday, May 20 –

ULSTER (4th, Con B) v OSPREYS (5th, Con A), Kingspan Stadium, 3.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/S4C)

A new contest but a familiar prize at stake for two teams used to mixing it with Europe’s elite year after year. For the first time the PRO14 hosts a play-off game for the final place in the Champions Cup as a result of adopting a Conference format this season.

Ulster, represent Conference B as the highest-placed team not to automatically qualify for the Champions Cup, while the Ospreys have benefited from the performances of Cardiff Blues and the Toyota Cheetahs’ EPCR ineligibility to represent Conference A.

For both teams it has been a season of mixed fortunes, big results in Europe did not translate into qualification in for the knockout stages while inconsistencies in the PRO14 prevented them reaching the final series – an expectancy in both Ulster and ‘Ospreylia’.

Littered with international quality, however, either side would be a fitting representative for the Championship in Europe’s top competition next season. Both teams boast British & Irish Lions of Test class with Iain Henderson, Rory Best and Tommy Bowe among the Ulster ranks, and Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric leading the way for the Ospreys. However, Henderson misses the game with a knee injury and Best is doubtful after picking up a hamstring injury in training.