The Irish Are Waiting To See If Edinburgh Can Maintain Top Spot

 

The fact that all four Irish clubs qualified for the last 16 of the European Champions’ Cup this past weekend underlines just how they are setting the pace in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

While there were two away from home thrilling wins for the DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks respectively, the prospect of facing foreign opposition will have to wait a little longer as the competition resumes up north this weekend.

But even as they continue to spearhead the URC challenge in Europe, it will be Edinburgh’s resurgence that will be keenly watched by all in Ireland, especially as they snuck into the top spot a few weeks back on the back of some superb form.

Edinburgh visit Ospreys this weekend looking to cement their four point lead at the top of the log.

Having already secured passage to the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup, Mike Blair’s side will be looking forward to trying to secure an away win in Wales to show they are real contender’s to Leinster’s dominance of the competition.

Edinburgh’s attack is potent. They sit 2nd overall in the league, just behind Leinster, with 205 points scored this season, of which 140 have come via their 28 tries. They’ve also made more clean breaks, 63, than any other side in the URC. However, they will be up against the top-rated defending side in the competition in the Ospreys.

Ospreys also top the leader board in the kicking stats; they have successfully kicked more penalties than any other team with 27 successful penalty goals. In fact, the team that comes nearest to that is the Cell C Sharks with 14 while Edinburgh have slotted 11 penalties so far this season.

Cardiff winger Owen Lane is relishing the prospect of Leinster’s visit to the Arm’s Park, with the Irish side set to arrive as red-hot favourites with a game in hand over Edinburgh.

But the Welsh side is hoping to make it a tough visit for the Pro14 champions.

“They are quality opposition. They are historically one of the best teams in the league and they are definitely playing that way at the moment so it’s a big challenge. But against Quins we played very good rugby, we played with the ball, we were exciting to watch and scored some good tries so hopefully we can put on a good show and try to create an upset,” Lane said.

“We played them last year when they had their internationals away and we were in the game until 60 minutes but they scored a few runaway tries.

“That’s the danger with Leinster they can score in quick concession very quickly. We have to put a full 80-minute performance in but historically we have been good finishing off games so we have to start well, get some tries on the board and hopefully we can compete for the full 80.”

Third-placed Ulster faces Scarlets this weekend, with Ross Moriarty returning to give the Welsh side a boost, while fourth-placed Glasgow will be looking to stop Andy Friend’s Connacht resurgence to keep their title aspirations alive.
Munster should have the measure of Zebre when they head to Parma on Friday night and have a game in hand over Glasgow.

Fixtures this weekend
Friday
Dragons vs Benetton (21.35)
Ulster vs Scarlets (21.35)

Saturday
Emirates Lions vs Vodacom Bulls (15.00)
Connacht vs Glasgow Warriors (16.55)
Cell C Sharks vs DHL Stormers (17.00)
Zebre vs Munster (19.00)
Ospreys vs Edinburgh (19.15)
Cardiff vs Leinster (21.35)