Leinster Aim To Stay Top As Edinburgh Try To Halt Their URC Slide


The Vodacom United Rugby Championship teams currently contesting for top spot all play games this weekend that could impact on the top four standings ahead of next week’s introduction of the exciting cross-hemisphere phase in South Africa.

The four local teams set to play overseas opposition next weekend at the start of an extended home run of matches that will run through until May aren’t impacted at this point on what happens at the top of the log, but that could change for some of them if they continue to climb the log as they are now.

Leinster are currently four points ahead of Ulster and will travel to Stade di Magio in Treviso to play Benetton, who the Cell C Sharks comfortably beat last week, knowing a win will be enough to keep them top at the top for another week. Ulster can though put some pressure on Leinster when 24 hours earlier they host Cardiff at the Kingspan Stadium.

Third placed Glasgow Warriors travel to Llanelli on Saturday to face the Scarlets knowing a win on the road will keep them firmly in the mix. Edinburgh, who in the space of a few short weeks have gone from second to fifth, will look to halt the slide when they face the DHL Stormers’ slayers from last week, Connacht, at the DAM Health Stadium.

Weekend Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixtures

Ulster v Cardiff (Belfast, Friday 21.35)

Ulster will be looking for a sixth successive victory since an 18-13 URC reverse to Munster and also boast a 100 percent home record for the season. Cardiff have form behind them though, having lost just one of their last four URC games. One of those wins was a shock triumph over Leinster, which they achieved with the last kick of the game.

Ulster, who have Springbok No8 Duane Vermeulen playing off the bench in this one, have not lost to Cardiff in Ulster for four years and should expect to win.

Edinburgh v Connacht (Edinburgh, Friday 21.35)

Three successive defeats have seen Edinburgh slip from second to fifth and their need to halt that slide is now becoming desperate. Connacht will arrive in the Scottish capital in a bouyant mood after two good wins, one away against Scarlets two weeks ago and the more recent being the rather lucky scrape against the Stormers in Galway last weekend.

Connacht coach Andy Friend has been rightly encouraged by the way his team won both their last two games, with the side having to dig deep in close encounters. Connacht are boosted by the return of their star flyhalf and captain Jack Carty from Ireland Six Nations duty (there is an international break this weekend). Edinburgh have former Emirates Lions flyhalf Jaco van der Walt on the bench.

Both games between Edinburgh and Connacht last season were won by the away side but Connacht have claimed four victories from their last six visits to Edinburgh. They have the momentum and on that basis might just sneak it, but Edinburgh are due a win.

Benetton v Leinster (Treviso, Saturday 14.55)

Leaders Leinster will be looking to maintain their stranglehold on Benetton, who have only managed one win over the Irish teams in 13 visits to the Stade di Monigo. Benetton are striving to avoid a third URC reversal on the bounce after going down to Glasgow and the Sharks. Leinster did drop a point last week when they failed to score four tries against the Lions but have momentum and should win comfortably.

Munster v Dragons (Limerick, Saturday 19.15)

A win for Munster will keep them in touch with the top three of Leinster, Ulster and Glasgow and they will be emboldened by the knowledge that they haven’t lost at home in the last eight games. They lost their most recent fixture against a Welsh team though, that being the 18-10 loss to the last year that ended a run of 15 successive wins. 

Dragons have not tasted victory since winning at Connacht in October and their only previous triumph at Thormond Park was 18 years ago so don’t bet on them changing their current second last log position.

Scarlets v Glasgow (Llanelli, Saturday 19.15)

The Scarlets will be watched closely by the Sharks, who host them in Durban on Friday. The Scarlets will have to change their recent form if they are to worry the Sharks by making an impression on third placed Glasgow, and they’ve only beaten Scottish opposition once in the last seven attempts. By contrast Glasgow are on a roll, having won their last five URC games, their best run in the competition since May 2019.

They have also triumphed on their last two trips to Llanelli, winning in November 2016 and April 2018, so the smart money should be on another Glasgow win.

Ospreys v Zebre Parma (Swansea, Sunday 16.00)

The Italian team foots the log and haven’t won a game ahead of their trip to South Africa next week, where they start against the Stormers in Stellenbosch before travelling up the coast to Durban. They are up against a team chasing a fourth consecutive win. Ospreys have also only lost once to Zebre in four years.