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Mar 30, 2023 2:57 pm
The mud has settled on one other epic Six Nations that noticed Eire emphatically seal a Grand Slam. It’s arduous to guess towards their premier province, Leinster, in Europe, however the likes of Toulouse, Saracens, and final yr’s winners, La Rochelle, will probably be gunning for them. All of Europe’s main contenders have residence benefit this week, and with final season’s two-legged format ditched, there’s much less margin for error. With eight video games going down, it guarantees to be an enthralling weekend of rugby.
The weekend kicks off with Leicester taking over Edinburgh at Welford Street on Friday evening. Mike Blair will probably be hoping his Scotland contingent can take the arrogance from their Twickenham success, whereas Leicester’s England gamers will probably be baying for revenge. The Tigers have been in fantastic kind within the Premiership in current weeks, their assault purring beneath the steering of fly half Handre Pollard, and they’re bolstered by the return of a number of of their England stars, together with Freddie Steward.
Edinburgh haven’t tasted victory since January however are strengthened by the return of their Scotland delegation. There’s a probably tasty battle within the scrum, with Pierre Schoeman taking over Dan Cole, whereas Hamish Watson and Tommy Reffell’s contest on the breakdown will probably be equally important. Given their current kind, the Tigers will probably be quietly assured, and Edinburgh should discover a solution to cease their rolling maul. Leicester will probably be cautious of Edinburgh’s firepower out large, with the electrical Darcy Graham and highly effective Duhan van der Merwe again in partnership.
Saturday lunchtime sees the Sharks host Munster in Durban. The Sharks have stuttered considerably since Christmas, however they’re usually formidable at residence, in a position to mix brute pressure with attacking ambition; they’ve the very best price of gainline success within the event up to now. The Sharks may fancy themselves at scrum time, an space the place Munster have struggled barely in Europe. Apart from their defeat towards Glasgow final weekend, Munster’s kind has been good this yr, and Peter O’Mahony’s return will present some welcome nous. Gavin Coombes has been one of many event’s standout gamers, however I really feel they may endure from the absence of the injured Tadhg Beirne.
Harlequins face a stiff task in Cape City towards the Stormers, who final week grew to become the primary aspect to not lose to Leinster this season. The Stormers have been in spectacular kind; conversely, Quins’ have faltered since Christmas, they usually’ve appeared vulnerably defensively in current weeks. Sluggish begins have usually hampered Quins, they usually’ll want to return out the blocks shortly on Saturday, or they may very well be in for an extended afternoon. The Londoners’ set piece is an space of power, however they’ll must entrance up bodily and look to maneuver the Stormers’ massive pack round. You’ll be able to by no means write Quins off, and if Marcus Smith can encourage some magic, they might pull off a shock.
Leinster will welcome again their sizeable slam contingent for Saturday’s recreation towards Ulster, although they are going to be with out Jonny Sexton, who will hope he hasn’t worn the Leinster blue for the final time. Leinster have been unstoppable this season, but to style defeat after coming again to say a formidable draw towards the Stormers. Equally to Eire, there’s no obvious weak spot in Leinster’s recreation, they usually share Eire’s ruthless streak in assault. It’s a monumental problem for Ulster, however Dan McFarland’s aspect are in good nick; their season rotated following their gutsy defeat away at La Rochelle. It’s arduous to look previous Leinster, however Ulster will relish their position because the underdogs as they did in 2019, once they nearly shocked the Dubliners within the quarter-finals.
Saturday’s ultimate conflict sees the holders La Rochelle tackle Gloucester. The French aspect have gained their final 4 matches and are formidable opposition at residence, with a potent assault. Gloucester have struggled currently, shedding to a fourteen-man Newcastle aspect final week, they usually might want to produce one thing particular to win within the south of France. La Rochelle topped Pool B by successful all 4 matches, conceding simply 57 factors. Gloucester certified regardless of struggling two heavy defeats towards Leinster, however they may take some coronary heart from their spectacular victory in Bordeaux. Nevertheless, it’s tough to look previous the French aspect.
Sunday lunchtime sees Exeter Chiefs welcome Prime 14 champions Montpellier. Regardless of some inconsistent current kind, the Chiefs will fancy themselves at residence, although their self-discipline should be significantly higher than of their defeat towards Tub final week. A few of Exeter’s finest performances have are available Europe this season, whereas Montpellier have been barely lucky to qualify with a singular victory. Montpellier presently sit ninth within the Prime 14, and their away kind has been their Achilles heel. Nevertheless, they do boast a real match-winner in quantity eight, Zach Mercer, who will probably be eager to showcase his skills with the World Cup looming.
Toulouse welcome again their French superstars, together with Six Nations Participant of the Event Antoine Dupont, for the go to of the Bulls. Protecting the French dynamo quiet is the Bulls’ finest recipe for achievement, however it’s simpler stated than completed. The Bulls have solely gained as soon as this yr and face a Toulouse aspect who’ve but to lose at residence all season. All indicators level in direction of a house win, however Toulouse needs to be cautious of the Bulls’ counter-attacking risk as they’ve scored extra tries from turnovers than anybody else within the event. The set-piece battle guarantees to be bruising, however I anticipate Toulouse’s superiority to shine by way of.
The ultimate match of the weekend sees Saracens host the Ospreys. The English aspect are sitting fairly prime of the Premiership and performed some scorching rugby of their victory over Harlequins final weekend, although they are going to be sweating barely on the health of Owen Farrell. In what’s been a wretched season for Welsh rugby, the Ospreys’ efficiency in Europe has been a uncommon excessive level, they usually certified with very good victories away at Montpellier and Leicester. On league kind, it’s arduous to look previous Saracens, who look the best-placed aspect to problem Leinster alongside Toulouse. Nevertheless, Ospreys have saved their finest for the continent this season. Can they pull off one other shock on Sunday?
Discover all fixture instances and dates right here