Friday, November 01, 2013

The Pagano Preview Nov 1-3

Every Friday lunchtime I look ahead to the weekend's rugby for the Irish provinces and beyond.

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PREAMBLE

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Friday, November 1

RaboDirectPRO12

Newport-Gwent Dragons v Leinster, 7:05pm

I have really set myself up for mockery with my pre-amble, haven’t I? Leinster’s trip to Rodney Parade is always a banana skin and defeat would no doubt make the journos especially keen to provoke a bigger reaction from Matt O’Connor.

It’s very much a patchwork squad he is brining  over to Newport, but that is hardly anything new for Leinster when it comes to this fixture. There is, however, some continuity from last weekend, and in a key position too - Noel Reid and Luke Fitzgerald form the centre partnership yet again so at least we could see the high defensive standards maintained.

And the Leinster backrow are no slouches either…Shane Jennings is joined by Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock, both of whom will feel they could well be involved with the international set-up on the same weekend next season.

Zane Kirchner gets his first start for his new club at full-back while Lote Tuqiri has another chance to show he can play a full 80 as he lines out on the wing.

At out-half we have the return of Jimmy Gopperth, who should be facing testing the conditions given it looks set to be a rainy evening and with the home side setting themselves up to thwart.

For the Dragons’ part they will need some production from Jason Tovey at out-half, while in the pack they have Netani Talei who’s remit is clearly to fill in when Toby Faletau is away so here is a perfect chance to do just that.

The bookies are saying Leinster will shade it by 2 points…I’d be inclined to go the other way in what should be a low-scoring contest. Scrums should go our way with another good shift from Martin Moore but I’m not so sure we’ll dominate other areas of the game and a losing bonus could be all we’ll take home. Dragons by 2


Edinburgh v Zebre, 7:45pm

Embra’s position as the league’s worst try-scoring team (just one per game) won’t be helped by Tim Visser’s long-term injury, but still even though Zebre have been scoring points for fun off the Welsh regions of late, this should be a decent home win. Edinburgh by 16


Ulster Bank League Div 1A


Clontarf v St Mary’s College, 7:30pm

I’m totally on board with the whole “Friday Night Lights” concept, but I really can’t see the logic in staging a massive all-Dublin derby in the top AIL division at the same time as the full Leinster team is playing? Well I suppose there could be a worse clash this weekend…we could have a Leinster match scheduled at the same time as Ireland play the world champions…at least that won’t happen until the END of November!

Aviva Premiership

Worcester Warriors v Bath, 7:45pm

Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs, 8pm

Top 14

Toulon v Bordeaux, 6pm

Castres v Clérmont, 8pm

Saturday, November 2

Autumn Internationals

Japan v New Zealand, 5am

Nice little training exercise for a New Zealand “A” selection (barring Ruchie of course) before they set about conquering Europe once again. Bookies are saying 50. That’s ridiculous. Margin won’t be that big surely. New Zealand by 49

England v Australia, 2:30pm

Technically the Japan v New Zealand kicked off the Autumn Internationals, but they really don’t count until a European team is involved, and what a cracker we have in store at Twickers.

You have to lean towards Stuart lancaster’s men on their own patch, particularly given the Wallabies’ understandably slow start under Ewan McKenzie.  However…I’m wondering if England’s approach might fall into the hands of the visitors.

Once more Lancaster has tinkered with his backline so despite the abilities of the likes of Marland Yarde and Billy Twelvetrees, the fact that they haven’t played together much as a unit has me thinking England will revert to type and plough through the pack more often than not.

That could make it just the sort of game where the Will Genia/Quade Cooper axis can find the space in the latter stages to do some damage, especially if Michael Hooper & Ben Mowen can at least get parity in the back-row battle.

I’ll be really disappointed if I don’t see a fighting display from the Wallabies today, and I’m going against the bookies and tipping them to edge it. I’ll label it as my “Upset Of The Week” because I don’t see any of the other matches I’m tipping raising eyebrows but this really is one that could go either way.  Australia by 3

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Cardiff Blues v Benetton Treviso, 2:30pm

Bookies aren’t exactly putting a whole lot of faith in the Blues at home, tipping them to win by only 5 despite sending the European champs home packing a few short weeks ago.  The Italians will come to contain with their Botes/Berquist halfback line but even without their internationals I’d be surprised if the likes of Robin Copeland and Josh Navidi didn’t get on top of this contest early and see it home. Cardiff by 10

Connacht v Glasgow, 5pm

If I’m Pat Lam I’d ignore what Matt O’Connor said and aim to do exactly what they did to Leinster last week, only better.  

I’m delighted to see Dave McSharry returning to a starting role, if he can get a string of games under his belt he could well be in contention for test status.

But it is in the halfback and lock pairings where Connacht will be looking to keep the game flowing in their favour, with Marmion superb last week in Dublin and unlucky not to be in the Ireland camp, and the Swift/Clarke pairing natural mischief-makers at the breakdown.

They’ll have their work cut out however against a Glasgow side keen to get back on track after a bad-tempered defeat against Munster last week.  With tests around the corner they send a surprisingly settled matchday 23 to Galway with Niko Matawalu lining out at fullback where he no doubt can cause much mayhem if given the space.

I really think the Westerners can cause an upset today but it’s a tradition on this site to bet against them in the hope of a jinx so I’ll side with the bookies. Glasgow by 5

Scarlets v Ulster, 6:30pm

Many Ulster fans were understandably miffed about the small number of their players in the Irish squad when you consider they are very much the form team in Ireland/the Pro12/Europe at the moment. 

But there’s an upside in that they get to send a remarkably strong squad to Llanelli considering it’s one week before the Autumn internationals.  Of course having the likes of John Afoa, Ruan Pienaar, Nick Williams and Jared Payne to call on doesn’t hurt, but there’s still Paul Marshall, Mike Allen, Darren Cave and Andrew Trimble amongst the home grown talent.

The Scarlets don’t seem to be as fortunate, with only Jordan Williams standing out as a prospect from my untrained-to-Welsh-prospects eye. 

I reckon the turf accountants are being generous to the home side predicting a mere 5-point loss…I reckon the number 5 will be a factor, but only in that it should be the amount of Pro12 points Mark Anscombe brings back to Belfast.  Anything less would be a disappointment with these lineups.  Ulster by 12

Munster v Ospreys, 7:15pm

Leinster’s win in Newport saw them climb to 3rd if only briefly, though the two sides above them meet each other so some ground will have been made no matter what happens.

Interesting selection for Munster - I thought JJ Hanrahan did well last week so it seems Rob Penney is making his selections on rotation rather than form - is that the way to go?  I would have thought the reason for rotation was to find your best player and eventually you have to make a call.

Still, Ian Keatley will see this as an opportunity to make some hay while Ian Madigan spends more time on the sidelines.

In the pack, Dave Kilcoyne in particular will be looking for a stand-out display on national TV as his stock has dropped considerably since the season has begun.

This will be a good opportunity for such Munster players to put up their hand as the Ospreys send over a virtual “A” selection where they will be looking to the likes of Joe Bearman for leadership.  A try bonus should be well withing Munster’s sights but if they persist with the flat passing game I reckon they’ll make do with the four points.  Munster by 6

Ulster Bank League Div 1A

Clontarf’s win in the Dublin derby last night puts them top, but UCD will have something to say about that today, though they won’t have it all their own way as Dolphin are the visitors.  Meanwhile at the foot of the table champions Lansdowne will be keen to haul themselves up the table as they visit Div1A new-boys Ballynahinch who have yet to register a win.

Ballynahinch v Lansdowne, 2:30pm

Cork Constitution v Garryowen, 2:30pm

UCD v Dolphin, 2:30pm

Young Munster v Old Belvedere, 2:30pm

Aviva Premiership

Gloucester v London Wasps, 4pm

Leicester Tigers v Harlequins, 5:30pm

Top 14

Brive v Toulouse, 2:05pm

Montpellier v Grenoble, 5:30pm

Biarritz v Racing Métro, 5:30pm

Oyonnax v Perpignan, 5:30pm

Stade Francais v Bayonne, 7:30pm

Sunday, November 3

Aviva Premiership

London Irish v Northampton Saints, 2pm

No rest for James O’Connor as he is thrown straight into the starting lineup for Irish in a back three that includes Ojo and Tagicakibau.  The “Not-nots” may be third from bottom of the Premiership but they must see at least a top-six “Whatever the Euro Cup is to be called” berth in their sights and they could take a step in the right direction with a home win against a test-depleted Northampton side.  I wanted to feature this one in my preview, but I can’t call it, so I’ll use the American tipster’s phrase “Pick ‘em”

Saracens v Newcastle Falcons, 3pm

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Be sure and enjoy your rugby this weekend wherever you are. JLP

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