URC Round 13 Preview

URC Round 13 Preview

Benetton Rugby v Connacht Rugby, Saturday, 1pm

A meeting of two teams just on the edge of the play-off zone, with tenth taking on ninth, so there’s much at stake.

Both sides will also be aiming to make amends for defeats last weekend.

Benetton have Azzurri stars Michele Lamaro, Juan Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello returning after playing key roles in Italy’s best ever Six Nations campaign.

Connacht’s Kiwi flanker Shamus Hurley-Langton said: “It’s one we are all looking forward to and itching to play in.

“It’s pretty much like a Test match. They are a Test match quality side with some good experienced international players, so it’s a good opportunity for us to test ourselves against the best.”

Ospreys v Emirates Lions, Saturday, 3.05pm

Welsh rugby stalwart Sam Parry is aiming to celebrate a major landmark in his career with a crucial bounce back victory.

The 32-year-old hooker will make his 150th appearance for the Ospreys in their must-win meeting with the Lions at the Swansea.com Stadium.

Following successive league defeats away to Edinburgh and home to Munster, they have to come out on top in order to keep alive their hopes of making the end of season play-offs.

They are currently down in eleventh, four points adrift of the eighth-placed Lions.

“Obviously it’s nice to have the personal milestone and I look forward to celebrating that,” said the five-cap Parry, who has been with the Ospreys for a decade now.

“But there’s a big job to do against a good Lions team and we definitely need to bounce back and put in a good performance, especially after the Munster loss last week.

“That was a tough one, we were really disappointed with it.

“We lost at home. That’s not something we like to happen often, so there has to be a reaction.

“There have been some honest conversations this week looking at our executions, our skill-sets and bits of the game we didn’t do well. We expect more from ourselves.

“We have to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes and put in a performance we are proud of in front of our fans.

“This is a massive game for us. It’s huge. We do need to win if we want to be in that top eight.

“The defeats have made it difficult, but one thing I would say about this team is we won’t give up until it’s impossible to make it.

“It would have been ideal to win the last two games, but they are gone now. We have to learn very quickly and put in a big performance because this Lions team is very good and they are going to take some beating.”

The visitors from Johannesburg showed their threat with an impressive 38-14 bonus point victory over Connacht in Galway last weekend.

They show just the one change with Conraad van Vuuren coming in at tighthead prop for Asenathi Ntlabakanye who is suspended due to his red card in the west of Ireland.

The Ospreys have Wales Six Nations forwards Adam Beard and Gareth Thomas back on regional duty, while full-back Max Nagy returns on the bench after a lengthy injury lay-off.

DHL Stormers v Ulster Rugby, Saturday, 5.15pm

Following a Player of the Match performance in the 43-21 victory over Edinburgh, the versatile Damian Willemse switches to inside centre this week.

Giving his thoughts on the Stormers’ enterprising style of play, he said: “The level of rugby we are playing, sometimes it does come with a lot of errors.

“But if we can improve on the things we are good at, I think that will give us a good opportunity to do a few wonderful things in this competition going forward.

“It’s about trying to get better every weekend and take it from there.”

Looking at the opposition, Willemse added: “Ulster are a quality side. We know that. It’s going to be an arm wrestle.

“We have to make sure we make ourselves proud. It’s an important weekend for us. We are looking forward to the game and to lifting the level of intensity a notch.”

Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors,  Saturday, 7.35pm

Having made more metres than any other player in the BKT URC last weekend following a switch to full-back, Ioan Lloyd now reverts to No 10 for the meeting with high-flying Glasgow.

Lloyd was employed as a fly-half by Wales during the Six Nations, starting one match and coming off the bench in the other four, while that’s also where he has played most of his rugby for the Scarlets this season in the wake of his move from Bristol.

But with the man who was first choice for Wales during the Championship - Sam Costelow - selected in the playmaking berth for the Llanelli-based region last weekend, the versatile Lloyd was shifted to No 15.

He responded by running for 152 metres in a dramatic last gasp victory over Benetton.

Head coach Dwayne Peel explained: “For us, it’s important he’s on the field. He is a player who can beat people and make things happen.

“We felt with Sam and him coming back last week that we were keen to get them both on the park and I felt they did a good job.

“I thought Ioan was really dangerous from the back. It gives him that bit of space to use his quality and his footwork.

“But both him and Sam will get time in the saddle at No 10.”

It’s now Lloyd’s turn at pivot, wth Costelow not involved, while fellow Wales squad member Ryan Elias is back fit to captain the side from hooker and scrum-half Kieran Hardy makes his 100th appearance.

Glasgow coach Franco Smith, who has Scotland stars Rory Darge, Scott Cummmings and Zander Fagerson returning, commented: “The Scarlets will be a tough test especially after their win over Benetton last weekend.

“They will take a lot of belief and confidence from that win; they will see it as a turning point in their season and we have no doubt that they will throw everything at us.”

Munster Rugby v Cardiff Rugby, Saturday 7.35pm

Both teams are bolstered by the return of a number of players from Six Nations duty.

Munster have title winners Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and Jack Crowley back on board, with Beirne captaining the side from the second row.

As for Cardiff, they are reinforced by Wales squad members Cam Winnett, Josh Adams, Alex Mann, Keiron Assiratti, Corey Domachowski and Evan Lloyd.

Full-back Winnett, who started all five Championship games, said: “I really enjoyed my time with Wales, but I was really looking forward to coming back to Cardiff as well.

“The boys here are really good and they have helped me loads in terms of developing the way I am as a player.”

Looking ahead to the outing at Limerick’s Thomond Park, he said: “It will be my first time playing there, so I am really looking forward to it.

“It will be tough, it always is over in Ireland, but we will give it our best shot.”

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