Another fast-paced round of BKT United Rugby Championship action is slated for this weekend after a dramatic opening to the season in round 1.
The second round kicks off on Saturday in Wales with the Ospreys playing their first home game of the season against Zebre Parma, who claimed two bonus points in their riveting encounter with Ulster last week.
In Galway, Connacht, who are set to be without Jack Carty (jaw laceration) for ‘a week or two’, take on Glasgow Warriors. Both teams picked up five points on opening weekend, and this is the westerners’ second of three successive home games.
Cathal Forde crossed in the second half of Connacht’s URC opener at the Sportsground, adding to a classy Caolin Blade hat-trick of tries, as Pete Wilkins’ men ran out 34-26 winners over the Ospreys.
Their lineout and maul coach John Muldoon is expecting a stern test from Glasgow, saying: “We’re looking forward to Saturday which will be a physical battle as always. I think Glasgow over the last number of years have prided themselves on that, so we know up front it will be a tough one.
“I think you need to take into account that Leinster were missing a lot of players (last Sunday) but at the same time Glasgow had a job to do and did it well.
“We know Glasgow like to challenge teams in many different ways and bring something new each week. They like to chuck the ball around and make teams work.”
The DHL Stormers, who were beaten finalists last season, welcome the Scarlets to Cape Town as the Welsh side complete their tour of South Africa.
It is a battle for a first win of the season between Leinster and the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Dublin. These teams played out a 13-try thriller in last season’s corresponding fixture, which Leo Cullen’s men won 54-34, and fans will expect much of these high-scoring outfits.
Leinster will be without Cian Healy for another number of weeks as he injured his shoulder at training. Martin Moloney is back in training following his long-term knee injury, while Luke McGrath (knee) and John McKee (hamstring) require further assessment this week.
“We’ve taken the learnings from the loss to Glasgow and are moving on to the Sharks, another big challenge,” said Jordan Larmour, who scored a try during the province’s 35-5 URC quarter-final victory over the South Africans last May.
“Across their team, they’ve got really good players, and the speed and threats they have out wide. It’s definitely going to be a tough match this weekend, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
At the same time on Saturday, Edinburgh will host the Emirates Lions at Hive Stadium, while Sunday’s action sees reigning champions Munster make the trip to Treviso to face Benetton Rugby.
Graham Rowntree’s charges have won their last four URC fixtures since drawing 22-all with the Sharks last April. Young back rower Alex Kendellen commented: “Benetton are a really good team, a real physical side, but we’re just focusing on ourselves. We’re sure we’ll go well.
“There hasn’t been much change (from last season). Similar things but just trying to do it at a better standard. We’re just trying to layer stuff into our game. We’re all looking forward to a massive season ahead, and (are) just taking it one game at a time.”
The Dragons are at home to Cardiff in the first Welsh derby of the season, and the Unity Round finishes up in Belfast where Ulster take on the Vodacom Bulls in their first match on Kingspan Stadium’s newly-installed 3G pitch.
Angus Curtis, who sustained a concussion against Zebre last Saturday, and fellow back Ben Moxham (finger) are both unavailable for selection. Beaten by Connacht in last season’s quarter-final, the Ulstermen have not lost consecutive home matches since 2010.
“It’s definitely a lot quicker and definitely defending is a bit harder too,” noted Ulster’s 21-year-old scrum half Nathan Doak. “That will probably suit us with our backs and being a young team.
“We’ve got guys that can beat defenders and excite the fans on the 3G. Hopefully we’ll see that at the weekend. The Bulls have got a big pack but they’ve also got fast backs so it should be a good game.
“Hopefully we can put the two of them (our defence and attack) together this week, and we can see a bit more of a complete performance (having scored six tries and conceded six tries in Parma). Improve on last week individually and as a team.”
BKT UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2 FIXTURES:
Saturday, October 28 –
Ospreys (13th) v Zebre Parma (10th), Swansea.com Stadium, 1pm (BBC One Wales/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports/SuperSport)
CONNACHT (4th) v Glasgow Warriors (2nd), the Sportsground, 3pm (TG4/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports 2/SuperSport) – click here to buy match tickets
DHL Stormers (6th) v Scarlets (16th), Danie Craven Stadium, 4pm local time (S4C/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports/SuperSport)
LEINSTER (15th) v HollywoodBets Sharks (14th), the RDS, 4.55pm (RTÉ 2/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports 1/SuperSport) – click here to buy match tickets
Edinburgh (7th) v Emirates Lions (9th), Hive Stadium, 5pm (URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports/SuperSport)
Sunday, October 29 –
Benetton Rugby (8th) v MUNSTER (3rd), Stadio di Monigo, 3pm local time/2pm Irish time (RTÉ 2/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports 1/SuperSport)
Dragons (12th) v Cardiff (11th), Rodney Parade, 2.30pm (URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports/SuperSport)
ULSTER (5th) v Vodacom Bulls (1st), Kingspan Stadium, 5pm (BBC Two Northern Ireland/TG4/URC.tv/Viaplay/Premier Sports 1/SuperSport) – click here to buy match tickets