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GUINNESS PRO14: Round 1 Preview

GUINNESS PRO14: Round 1 Preview

The GUINNESS PRO14 returns this weekend as a new broadcast era begins for the Championship with eir Sport, Premier Sports and DAZN joining SuperSport, S4C and TG4 in bringing fans right to the heart of the action.

The GUINNESS PRO14 is proud to deliver some of the most exciting rugby in the club game thanks to the Championship’s naturally fast play, incredible breakdown battles and the sharp wits of the men in the coaches’ boxes.

The opening round fixtures will take place across three countries – Ireland, Italy and Wales – with plenty of eye-catching match-ups for fans to feast on now that every game will be broadcast live in the UK by Premier Sports and Free Sports.

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The season may only be beginning but all teams will have their sights set on reaching the 2019 GUINNESS PRO14 final on Saturday, May 25 which will take place at Celtic Park in Glasgow – the first time the showpiece decider will be played outside of a rugby venue. Fans can book their places now by clicking here to get their hands on the best seats available.

Richard Cockerill takes his Edinburgh team to Liberty Stadium on Friday to face the Ospreys. The Scots reached the PRO14 final series for the first time last season and have lost just once on the opening weekend since 2013, however, they have not beaten the four-time champions in Swansea since 2009.

The first clash of the season in Italy takes place in Parma where Zebre play host to the newly-christened Isuzu Southern Kings at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi. Coached by Michael Bradley, the hosts claimed their highest total of wins last season (seven) but face a reinvigorated Kings team eager to set new standards.

Saturday’s first game of the day takes place at the Sportsground in Galway where Andy Friend takes charge of Connacht for the first time against Glasgow Warriors. It is a meeting of the 2015 and 2016 champions and the third season in a row that they have met on the opening weekend with Warriors twice leaving as victors.

Following the action in Galway, the Toyota Cheetahs’ first outing of the season comes against Munster at Thomond Park. Munster are coached by South African Johann van Graan and were one of the few teams to beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last season, however, the visitors will be eager to avoid a repeat of their heavy loss here in round 2 in 2017.

At Kingspan Stadium Ulster face the Scarlets with their new head coach Dan McFarland in charge for the first time. The Scarlets, who lost six times to Irish opposition last season, face an Ulster team who have only ever lost once in the opening round of the Championship, but with title aspirations on their minds the Welsh region will want to buck the trend in Belfast.

The Dragons open up their campaign at Rodney Parade against Benetton Rugby with the Italians fresh from record number of wins (11) last season. Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman has brought in a number of new signings, while Kieran Crowley has consolidated at Benetton and should have aspirations to challenge for a PRO14 final series berth this season.

Meanwhile, in the pick of the round, It is the clash of European champions as the Challenge Cup winners host the Champions Cup holders in the heart of the Welsh capital. Cardiff Blues enter the season buoyed with optimism as they face a Leinster team that arrives off the back of a PRO14 and European Cup double.

The Blues begin the season with Australian John Mulvihill in charge and he will immediately aim to record his side’s first win over Leinster since 2011 while the visitors are also without a road win in four games. 

There will be fresh talent on the pitch too, with Cardiff Blues having signed the powerful USA international Samu Manoa during the summer, while Leinster replaced their retired captain Isa Nacewa with Australian international Joe Tomane. 


Friday, August 31 –

Cardiff Blues v LEINSTER, Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1 & 2/Premier Sports/TG4)

Ospreys v Edinburgh, Liberty Stadium, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports/deferred eir Sport 1 & 2)

Zebre v Isuzu Southern Kings, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 8.35pm local time (live Free Sports/DAZN/SuperSport 1/deferred eir Sport 1)

Saturday, September 1 –

CONNACHT v Glasgow Warriors, the Sportsground, 3pm (live TG4/eir Sport 1 & 2/Premier Sports)

ULSTER v Scarlets, Kingspan Stadium, 5.15pm (live Premier Sports/eir Sport 2/S4C)

MUNSTER v Toyota Cheetahs, Thomond Park, 5.15pm (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports/SuperSport 1)

Dragons v Benetton Rugby, Rodney Parade, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports/eir Sport 2/DAZN)