PRO12 Returns

RaboDirect Pro12

The PRO12 returns to the foreground this weekend. (c) Sum_of_Marc.

With the Six Nations done and dusted, it’s time for the provincial game to take the front seat again. Many supportes will be delighted to get back to supporting their home team, especially after the inconsistent Irish displays over the last couple of months. With only 5 games left until the play-offs, Leinster, Munster and Ulster are all well in contention while Connacht are hoping to rise as high as possible in the table. Even with the Irish internationals getting a precious weekend off, there are plenty of big names to whet the appetite.

Leinster are first up on Friday night against the Ospreys. They welcome Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen back into the fold after recovery from shoulder and achilles injuries respectively. The initial prognosis on BOD after his surgery in November was that he could miss the remainder of the season. The fact that he is back already speaks volumes for the man. He is a legend of the game and will play a huge part as Leinster look for PRO12 and Heineken Cup glory.

Captain Cullen coming back into the mix on the same day that Brad Thorn is set to make his Leinster debut is more good news. Leinster have been stretched for numbers in the second-row department in recent times, but now look well-stocked. Thorn’s obvious pedigree should help Leinster maintain, and possibly improve, the high standards they have set for themselves over the last few years.

Drico is back for Leinster, rejoice! (c) Art Widak.

On Saturday afternoon Ulster are in Italy to take on Treviso. Sitting 5th, just one place off the play-offs, Brian McLaughlin’s men face a tough run-in. This Treviso game and Aironi at home the weekend after are must-wins. Ulster’s final three games are away to Connacht, home to Leinster and away to Munster. Not ideal. After a good first half to the season Treviso have faded away and are no longer in contention for the play-offs. Clearly, a win for Ulster is essential.

Darren Cave and captain Johann Muller make their returns from injury to give Ulster a lift. Cave’s foot injury was unfortunately-timed in the build-up to the Six Nations as he was in excellent form. He’ll be looking to pick right up where he left off in a bid to secure a place on Ireland’s tour to New Zealand this summer.

Finally, on Saturday evening it’s the big derby in Galway, Connacht vs. Munster. Tony McGahan’s side come into the game placed 2nd, on course for a home play-off. Connacht are at the other end of the scale in 10th, just 5 points off the bottom. It would appear that Munster have more to play for, but this is exactly the type of game that Eric Elwood and his team will have targeted for a win. Expect another ferocious battle in front of a capacity crowd at the Sportsground.

Tomas O'Leary scored a great individual try copy

O'Leary is back for Munster's derby with Galway. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

There’s been plenty of positive news coming from Connacht relating to next season’s squad, which we will look at in more depth over the next few days. For now, minds will be focused on this term’s run-in. Elwood will be keen to at least match last year’s 9th-place finish and 7 wins. With only 4 wins registered up to this point, a good finishing streak is needed. Home fixtures against Munster, Aironi and Ulster offer hope, as well as the clash away to the Dragons. Here’s the Connacht team.

Munster will be unconcerned with aiding their nieghbours’ positive finale to the season. They are focused on securing that crucial home spot for the play-offs in May. Ireland squad members Damian Varley and Tomas O’Leary are involved this weekend. O’Leary will be keen to get straight back into action after his involvement at Twickenham. Meanwhile, David Wallace and Felix Jones both continue their resurgence after long-term injuries.

The underestimated PRO12 is often demeaned as a dull league when pitted against the Heineken Cup and Six Nations. However, it’s vitally important to the game in Ireland, and gives our talented youngsters a chance to get on the pitch. With just 5 games left, Leinster look safe at the top of the table. Behind them, there are 6 teams, including Munster and Ulster, with realistic hopes of a play-off place. Further down, a successful run-in for Connacht could give them their best-ever final position. Plenty of reasons to tune in.

——————–

Friday 23rd March

Leinster vs. Ospreys @ The RDS. Kickoff – 19.05 (RTE2)

Saturday 24th March

Treviso vs. Ulster @ Stadio di Monigo. Kickoff – 15.15 (BBCNI)

Connacht vs. Munster @ Sportsgrounds. Kickoff – 19.45 (TG4)

——————–

Photos courtesy: Sum_of_Marc, Ivan O’Riordan, Art Widak.

5 responses to “PRO12 Returns

  1. its amazing the difference in the management between Munster and Leinster. at the start of the season Leinster had two lemons in Newland and Skyes now both are gone and Leo Cullen’s returns to action to partner his injury replacement Brad Thorn on Thorns debut.

    Munster on the other hand have Borlase and Toluka, Borlase has done an fantastic impression of Kaiser Soze over the last two seasons and at the moment Toluka is pushing hard to rival Clinton Huppert for worst ever Munster signing.

    Ulster continue to get their extra IRFU funding for NIQ players that allows them to attract and pay for top names.

  2. Yeah as a Munster fan myself, I have to say I was fairly jealous when they announced the Thorn signing pretty soon after we brought in Tokula! I was skeptical at the time it was announced about how much of an impact Tokula would have. I’d be a firm believer in promoting from within unless the short-term overseas signing is going to radically improve the first-team.

    I didn’t manage to catch any of Borlase during his very short spell at Connacht. How did he get on? Haha nice comparison with Kaiser Soze and in fairness we have seen so little of him since he joined! I think Munster have been very hit and miss with their overseas signings. Chambers and Tokula have added almost nothing, when we could have given some of the younger backs a run.

    • Have heard that Borlase can handle himself in the scrum but injuries have been his downfall. Not sure if he’s another Nick Williams (I actually remember seeing you play with Nick against Leinster A in Ballinakill a few years back).

      I have no idea why Munster haven’t used the likes of Deasy at 12 given his A team performances there. Deasy has struggled to control games at OH but has looked good at 12. Dineen has also done well at centre when given a chance. Troy Smith has been unlucky with injury as well.

      Would love to know for sure who makes the signings at Munster. Is it the head coach or is the likes of Garrett Fitz.

  3. Yeah Deasy at 12 would be a good option, he played a lot of underage rugby there and excelled. Dineen looked good in his very limited opportunities last season. Would rather see some faith in these guys than a pointless signing like Tokula or Chambers denying them even just one or two games. Woud be very interesting to know who is in charge of recruitment.

  4. Toeava now heading to Japan as well. That’s the calibre of signing we should be going for.

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