Thursday, December 10, 2015

Looking pretty dodgy for all the Irish teams this weekend to be honest

 Stuart McCloskey: first start for last season’s academy player of the season. Photograph: John Dickson/Inpho
 Stuart McCloskey ( picture

Ulster and Connacht are in European action this Friday, but I’m more hopeful for Connacht than for Ulster. Having said that, it’s injury central in Connacht, with 18 (whew) players out injured. But the arriving Falcons are without a win this season in England, and the systems and self-belief of Connacht should see them through.

Ulster have named a strong side, there’s no denying the quality in the side with players like Pienaar, Best and McCloskey. But Toulouse are formidable – huge pack, exciting backline, and they lie in second in the T14 so they’re playing well.  We haven’t really seen much from Ulster this year – they have had the same problems as Leinster with reintegrating their internationals, and the team is just not firing properly. If they were to pull off a win here, even at home, it would be some achievement.

Munster face the visit of the in form Leicester Tigers to Thomond Park. The men in red have a pretty special home record, they very seldom lose European matches at home. But their form this season has been pretty patchy, they have two loss’s on the trot, albeit that last weekend’s team was practically a b- team. When I’ve watched Leicester, I’ve been impressed with their physicality, so Munster are going to have to really front up, and then behind that pack Ben Youngs is a master at pulling the strings. Munster can win this one  - but theyre going to have to dig awesomely deep.

Finally, Leinster go into their away match against Toulon with a horror start to the campaign, played 2 lost 2. Is it any consolation that Toulon were hammered even more efficiently by Wasps than Leinster were? Probably not. The French galactacos are not infallible, but are rarely fallible and seldom at home. If Leinster were in early Joe Schmidt form, I’d give them a decent chance of a win, but playing as they are – pretty hard to see really. Well, then we can really focus on the PRO12!

Friday, December 11   
Ulster v    Stade Toulousain     7:45 PM
Saturday, December 12
Glasgow Warriors v    Scarlets     1:00 PM
Benetton Treviso v    Stade Français Paris     3:15 PM
Racing 92 v    Northampton Saints     3:15 PM
Exeter Chiefs v    Clermont Auvergne     5:15 PM
Ospreys v    Bordeaux Begles     5:15 PM
Munster v    Leicester Tigers     7:45 PM
Sunday, December 13
Oyonnax v    Saracens     1:00 PM
Toulon v    Leinster     3:15 PM
Wasps v    Bath Rugby     5:15 PM

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