United Rugby Championship Round 11 Previews

The United Rugby Championship returns this week with a full slate of eight fixtures with games taking place across Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Wales as teams set their sights on making a push for a top-eight finish to reach the URC Final Series.

Leaders Edinburgh can consolidate top spot if they claim a seventh championship win from nine starts this season by toppling the Ospreys in Wales on Saturday.

Leinster, though, are hot on Edinburgh’s heels and an away-day success – also in Wales against Cardiff – could see them take over top spot.

A busy programme gets under way on Friday night with Ulster hosting a Scarlets side playing just their second URC fixture since late October while the Dragons host Benetton.

Elsewhere on Saturday, fourth-placed Glasgow Warriors face a testing encounter against Connacht in Galway, with Munster chasing an 18th successive victory over their Italian hosts Zebre Parma.

Some absorbing South African head-to-heads are in store as the Emirates Lions tackle Vodacom Bulls in Johannesburg and DHL Stormers head to Durban for an appointment with Cell C Sharks.

FRI – Ulster v Scarlets
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast | KO 19:35 UK & IRE (20:35 ITA, 21:35 SA) | Live on Premier Sports and URC TV

Ulster return to United Rugby Championship business on the back of victories against Northampton and Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Victory over the Scarlets would see them move second in the URC table behind Edinburgh and they will be looking to maintain a 100 per cent home record against all opponents this season.

Scarlets are seeking a third successive URC win – something they have not achieved since 2019 – but they have not beaten an Irish team away from home in the league for 14 months.

Ulster have won the last four encounters against their Welsh opponents in all competitions, with Scarlets last tasting victory in Belfast six years ago.

FRI – Dragons v Benetton
Rodney Parade, Newport | KO 19:35 UK & IRE (20:35 ITA, 21:35 SA) | Live on Premier Sports, Mediaset and URC TV

The Dragons will go in pursuit of just a second United Rugby Championship victory of the season when they host mid-table Benetton.

The teams met only a fortnight ago in the EPCR Challenge Cup, when Benetton triumphed 23-9 on home soil, while the Dragons have not won at Rodney Parade since last season’s Rainbow Cup.

Benetton lead 12-8 on the overall head-to-head and they will arrive in Wales seeking a third triumph from their last four URC fixtures.

The Dragons claimed a win in the teams’ last URC meeting 14 months ago but that was their first victory over the Italians since January 2017.

SAT – Emirates Lions v Vodacom Bulls
Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg | KO 15:00 SA (13:00 UK & IRE, 14:00 ITA) | Live on Premier Sports and URC TV

The Emirates Lions will be seeking a first United Rugby Championship home win of the season when they host the Vodacom Bulls in Johannesburg.

Both of the Lions’ previous URC victories were on the road against Zebre Parma and DHL Stormers while their only league success at home was against the Bulls last year when they recorded a 34-33 verdict.

It is three months since the Bulls’ solitary URC win of the campaign, an impressive 29-19 toppling of Cardiff away from home, and their recent Currie Cup road form has been strong, with victories over the Pumas and Western Province.

The Bulls have only been beaten once by the Lions in their last nine meetings.

SAT – Connacht v Glasgow Warriors
Sportsground, Galway | KO 14:55 UK & IRE (15:55 ITA, 16:55 SA) | Live on RTE, Premier Sports and URC TV

Glasgow will preserve a place in the United Rugby Championship’s top four if they can end Connacht’s recent run of home success.

Connacht are unbeaten in their last three home URC fixtures while Glasgow are seeking a third victory on the bounce after toppling Welsh opponents Dragons and Ospreys.

There could be slight concern for Glasgow in that they have only claimed one away win in any competition this season and their last 12 encounters against Irish provinces have produced just one victory – against Leinster last year.

Referee Nic Berry, meanwhile, becomes only the second Australian to take charge of a Championship match following Stuart Dickinson, who was in the middle for Edinburgh versus Leinster in February 2005.

SAT – Cell C Sharks v DHL Stormers
Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban | KO 17:05 SA (15:05 UK & IRE, 16:05 ITA) | Live on Premier Sports and URC TV

Cell C Sharks will go into their latest URC game with confidence levels topped up on the back of three wins in their last four matches.

The Sharks have only lost once in Durban since July, going down to a 34-25 Currie Cup defeat against Western Province.

But they will encounter a DHL Stormers outfit also in form, having lost one of their last four fixtures and being unbeaten in three successive away matches since losing to Munster in October.

Stormers edged the Sharks 25-22 in their last meeting – their first triumph against them for more than two years.

SAT – Zebre Parma v Munster
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma | KO 18:00 ITA (17:00 UK & IRE, 19:00 SA) | Live on RTE, Premier Sports, Mediaset and URC TV

Munster will head to northern Italy boasting a perfect record against Zebre Parma of 17 successive wins.

Compounding Zebre’s task is they have not tasted victory in any competition since toppling the Dragons a year ago.

Munster’s only defeat in their last six games was against Connacht on New Year’s Day.

Their overall record against all-Italian opponents is outstanding, with a 100 per cent run since losing to Benetton in Treviso more than eight years ago.

SAT – Ospreys v Edinburgh Rugby
Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea | KO: 17:15 UK & IRE (18:15 ITA, 19:15 SA) | Live on Premier Sports and URC TV

United Rugby Championship leaders Edinburgh will head to Wales in pursuit of a seventh URC victory of the season.

The Scottish challengers have won their last five URC fixtures since drawing 20-20 with DHL Stormers in October and emerged victorious in all three of their games against Welsh opposition this term.

They have not lost in Wales for almost a year but Ospreys have a solid home record and have been beaten once in the last six meetings with Edinburgh, losing 37-10 in November 2017.

If Edinburgh triumph on Saturday, it would give them a first win in Swansea since April 2009.

SAT – Cardiff Rugby v Leinster
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff | KO: 19:35 UK & IRE (20:35 ITA, 21:35 SA) | Live on TG4, S4C, Premier Sports and URC TV

Leinster could go top of the United Rugby Championship if they win at Cardiff and Edinburgh come unstuck against Ospreys.

The Irish province can reflect on six wins from their URC games this term and they have not lost on their travels since last season.

Their record against Welsh opposition is an imposing one – one defeat in the last 16 games – and 16 on the bounce against Cardiff in all competitions.

Cardiff, though, have lost only twice at the Arms Park in URC action during the past year and all three of their championship wins this season have been on home soil.

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