This week marks the third of four successive games where teams are missing any players that are involved in 6 Nations squads and thanks to the annoying feature of Thursday games, I’ve missed the Scarlets’ 11-3 win over Edinburgh last night but there are still five more games this weekend and it looks like the games are well set for a successful few days for the Irish provinces.
Leinster have been hit very hard by the amount of international players missing over the last few weeks and it’ll be more of the same tonight. Fergus McFadden is not in the squad despite being left out of the Ireland 22 but Stan Wright starts his first game back from injury in a pretty strong pack. Treviso beat Munster two weeks ago but that was at home and their team for tonight is very different from that game. Their away form is terrible too so if Leinster can avoid the lethargy and mistakes of the first half against Aironi, they should win.
Ulster hung on and hung on to win with the last kick of the game against the Scarlets last week to keep them in the hunt for the play offs. With home advantage, Ian Humphreys returning and only Paddy Wallace missing from last week’s team (which will do them no harm based on that performance), they should be well set to win against a much more depleted Cardiff tonight. The third game today is the pretty low-key meeting of Glasgow and the Dragons who are on wildly different runs of form. A likely Dragons win would be their fourth in a row and Glasgow’s fifth defeat in a row so an away win looks on the cards.
Munster looked a lot better last week in a fairly comfortable home win over an admittedly poor Edinburgh side and a trip to Viadana to play Aironi on Sunday shouldn’t scare them. Aironi may have given Leinster some trouble in the first half of their meeting in the RDS two weeks ago but Leinster caused most of their own problems and dominated the second half (after some strong words from Joe Schmidt most likely!) so once Munster hit the ground running, they should have no real problems.
I said last week that Connacht had an excellent chance to make up some ground over these international weekends and they’ve been doing that so far with two wins out of two and 5 tries against Glasgow last time out. Sunday’s trip to Swansea is their only away game during the 6 Nations but the Ospreys are (Leinster aside possibly) the team most affected by international call-ups. While Connacht can be affected with an irritating inability to follow up good results, I’ll go with them to make it three-in-a-row and reach the heady heights of 8th place.
Thursday: Scarlets 11-3 Edinburgh
Friday: Ulster v Blues
Friday: Leinster v Treviso
Friday: Warriors v Dragons
Sunday: Aironi v Munster
Sunday: Ospreys v Connacht