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At a glance: Guinness Pro12 round three
19 Sep 2014 19:07
Tonight sees the first interprovincial derby of the year with Leinster heading west to the Sportsground to take on Connacht, while Ulster travel to Cardiff and Munster have a relatively easy task against Zebre.
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GUINESS PRO12 FIXTURES
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Friday 19 September
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Munster v Zebre (7.30pm) Cardiff v Ulster (7.35pm, BBC Wales) Connacht v Leinster (7.35pm, TG4)
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Saturday 20 September
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Newport Gwent Dragons v Glasgow (2.40pm, Sky Sports) Scarlets v Benetton Treviso (6pm)
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Sunday 21 September
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Ospreys v Edinburgh (4pm)
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Munster v Zebre (Friday, 7.30pm)
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Munster’s season got off to a bad start with a narrow defeats to Edinburgh but last week’s away win against Treviso was a bounce back of sorts and they can also take solace in the fact that they have played well in patches.
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That should be more than enough to account for Zebre, who have been over-run by Ulster and Cardiff, albeit while scoring a reasonable amount of points of their own.
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Weakened by injury and playing at Thomond Park against a Munster team bolstered by the inclusion of Conor Murray and Paul O’Connell, it’s a question of how many good spells Munster will have and what that will add up to on the scoreboard.
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Prediction: Munster 38-10 Zebre
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Cardiff v Ulster (Friday, 7.35pm)
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An interesting test for Ulster, who welcome Tommy Bowe back into a robust looking side albeit not quite as powerful as what they would have been able to name a season ago.
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Ulster have already secured a decent result on the road in Wales, showing character to get a draw against Scarlets on day one, and got the job done against Zebre last week.
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Cardiff were beaten by the in-form Glasgow Warriors last week and make four changes from that side. Ulster are dangerous but don’t look to have the pack to dominate or the half-backs to control the game. At home, Cardiff’s pack may just be allowed to provide the platform for a first win of the season.
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Prediction: Cardiff 21-10 Ulster
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Connacht v Leinster (Friday. 7.35pm)
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Having been out of sorts for most of the match against Glasgow in week one, Leinster were back to their usual selves at the RDS last week and gave a sound beating to the visiting Scarlets.
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Connacht also showed they cannot be easily written off, grabbing their second win of the season against Edinburgh after spending most of the match dominated.
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Leinster have a clear edge in some positions, though Connacht supporters will hope that the likes of Kieran Marmion and Robbie Henshaw can outshine their direct opponent while Irish rugby fans will keep a close eye on Jack Carty at out-half.
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Leinster look to have the edge in the pack, with Jamie Heaslip retained after supplying much needed steel and directness last week. Rob Kearney and Jack McGrath are others who could have match-turning impact in the visitors’ favour. Clashes between these two have been tight in recent seasons, but Leinster may just have enough to edge another close one.
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Prediction: Connacht 12-16 Leinster
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