Glasgow Warriors and Ulster have been boosted by the return of some key men ahead of their Pro 14 semi-final at Scotstoun on Friday at 19 35.
For the hosts co-captain Callum Gibbins returns from a head injury sustained against Saracens in the Champions Cup quarterfinals, while also being able to name DTH van der Merwe on the wing.
On the other hand, the visitors have been massively lifted by the timely returns of both Jacob Stockdale and Louis Ludik, who slot straight into the back three as their side look to reach the final for the first time in six years.
Glasgow start the game with a front-three of Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson, with Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray behind them on in the second-row.
The pack is finished with the strong trio of Rob Harly, Gibbins and Matt Fagerson
Scotland international Ali Price opens at scrum-half with Adam Hastings partnering him from fly-half. Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn are just outside the pair in the 12 and 13 jerseys respectively.
It is a formidable back-three as van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour open on the wings with Stuart Hogg at full-back. This will be Hogg’s final home game for the Warriors before his summer switch to Exeter Chiefs.
There is plenty of strength on the bench as well with the likes of Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Peter Horne and Huw Jones to call upon.
For Ulster it’s a front-row of Eric O’Sullivan, captain Rory Best and Ross Kane with Ian Henderson and Kieran Treadwell in the engine room.
At the back of the pack there is a serious amount of power with Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy and Marcel Coetzee on the flanks and at No 8 respectively.
John Cooney continues alongside Billy Burns in the half-backs, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshell are in the centre.
Louis Ludik begins the game on the left-wing with Robert Baloucoune on the right and Jacob Stockdale moves to full-back for the clash.
Just like the home side Ulster have depth on the bench with Rob Herring, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan and Darren Cave among those ready to play their part.
Speaking ahead of the final-four clash Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, whose side have gone further this season than most expected, is looking forward to testing his team against one of the best teams in the league.
“We’re treating it as an opportunity to play against a quality side and are confident in the work we’ve done this week, but understanding it’s a difficult task. It’s what you want to be doing. We could be on our sun loungers now, but we’re playing play-off rugby which is brilliant,” he said.
The prize for the victor will be a place in the final against either Leinster or Munster who face off in the other semi-final on Saturday and from there who knows what could happen with all hoping to claim the Pro 14 title after another incredible season.
Pete Wilkins: Preview to Benetton
This Saturday Connacht Rugby welcome Benetton Rugby to The Sportsground. For Connacht, its a first home game since late October and one they will be aiming to win.
Head coach Pete Wilkins spoke to media before the game where he was first asked about last weekend’s defeat to Munster.
“Saturday wasn’t good enough and the scoreline reflects that”
“I’ve got mixed feelings from it, in the first half we put ourselves in contention but I don’t think Munster should have had ten points if we had been on our game as effectively as we should have been and in the second half I feel we gave them too many blocks of momentum”
“The key stat for me on Saturday was we got into their 22 six times and they got access to our 22 twelve times”
“Going into the game we were fairly even when it came to that stat per game”
The Connacht set piece has been very impressive so far this year and while Pete is happy with how that area is going he still believes there’s room for improvement.
“The forwards are showing great appetite for work and they have been top class but as a unit they know they haven’t reached their best yet which excites me so much”
“Lads are coming into training each day looking at specific details as to where they can improve and get the best out of each other”
“As coaches we’re seeing real competition in our scrum sessions, the lads are really pushing each other which is what’s needed to reach the level we want”
Benetton make their way to Galway on Saturday and the Italian side have had a decent season to date so Pete is expecting a massive challenge and one that should excite the players.
“Its an interesting challenge because they are pretty low in the rankings for possession, territory and points scored but yet they are very effective on their day and that is down to their goal kicking and taking opportunities when they come”
“If your discipline is poor they will punish you and they have powerful forwards who can cause damage”
“For us, we need to be effective when we have the ball and be clinical”
The Connacht team for Saturday will be named on Friday.
Tickets for the game are available HERE
Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby
Young wants Cardiff to take another step forward against Bulls
Dai Young has challenged Cardiff to take another step forward when they face Vodacom Bulls on Saturday night (18:00 GMT).
The Blue and Blacks go into the encounter on the back of an impressive 35-0 victory over Cell C Sharks in Durban – the first time a Welsh team had secured a BKT United Rugby Championship triumph in South Africa and the first time the Sharks or any of their predecessors at Kings Park had been nilled since 1972.
Young hopes his players will be brimming with confidence when they run out at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and he has challenged them to deliver a consistent level of performance as they continue their progression.
He said: “You like to think you are going to grow in confidence and belief after good performances in exactly the same way as bad performances can draw that out.
“I thought we played really well and you can’t take that away from the players – they did an excellent job and tactically we played the conditions really well.
“We went into the game knowing the first 25 minutes was huge and whatever team got a lead in those conditions, it was always going to be hard for the other team to turn that around.
“But we are not going to get ahead of ourselves. It was a great performance but one that is gone now and history. Hopefully we can take some confidence and belief out of it but we know we have another massive challenge on the weekend.”
While Cardiff have now notched up victories over the Sharks and reigning URC champions the DHL Stormers in the current campaign, their Arms Park defeat to the Bulls last season remains vivid.
Young recalls the Pretoria-based outfit as the biggest side he has ever encountered and indeed they are currently second in the URC stats for metre gained, clean breaks and point scored. That points to the Bulls balance between size and attacking prowess and Young knows his side will need to be even better this weekend.
He continued: “I’m sure there are a few more bumps in the road but we will take that performance and it should give us a lot of belief and confidence. The realism kicks in now and we know what a formidable outfit the Bulls are.
“They are probably in a better position than the Sharks at the moment so we know we have to be better again to get anywhere near them.
“They don’t hide the way they want to play. Most South African teams play a very similar way. They have huge physicality up front and I remember playing them at the Arms Park where it was definitely the biggest pack of forwards I’ve ever come across. They were just huge.
“They also have real pace behind. They are comfortable moving the ball and playing from deep and they are comfortable sitting behind the ball.
“If you look back to our game at the Arms Park we had a really good first half against them, caused lots of pressure and got ourselves in a decent position but in the second half they just shut the game down. They went to their scrum and driving line out, forced penalties, won field position and just out powered us.
“We know they can play both ways and we have to bring the performance from the weekend. The target for us as a team is to consistently put these kind of performances in and if they are enough on the day great and if we’re not, we’re not.
“I don’t want to get involved in this emotional rollercoaster that if you lose you’re really down and if you win you’re really up. Every game has to be about individual and collective improvement and that’s what we have talked about this week.”
Global broadcast information – Leinster Rugby v Ulster Rugby
Leinster Rugby takes on Ulster at the RDS on Saturday, 3rd December in round 9 of the 2022/23 BKT United Rugby Championship with a 7.35 pm kick-off.
The Official Leinster Supporters Club (OLSC) has compiled the following broadcast information:
Ireland: LIVE on TG4 from 7.00 pm and Viaplay Sports 1 from 7.00 pm
UK: LIVE on Viaplay Sports 1 from 7:00 pm
Italy: LIVE on Discovery + (please check your local area for coverage time)
South Africa: LIVE on SuperSport Rugby (please check your local area for coverage time)
USA: LIVE on FloSports (please check your local area for coverage time)
Canada: Sportsnet holds the broadcasting rights to show URC games in Canada, however, four games per round featuring the Irish Province teams will be available through URC TV as well should you
wish to use our service instead.
Australia: URC TV
New Zealand: Spark holds the broadcasting rights to show URC games in New Zealand, however, four games per round featuring non-South African teams will be available through URC TV as well should you wish to use our service instead.
Twitter: @leinsterrugby – a Twitter account is not required to view updates
For options outside of the above, check out URC TV which is an online streaming service giving fans the opportunity to watch every game live and on demand.
Full list of URC TV availability HERE
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