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Celtic League Preview

Celtic League Preview

EBBW VALE v EDINBURGH RUGBY (at Eugene Cross Park, 2.30pm).

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Expect Ebbw Vale to fight to fight tooth and nail to take down Edinburgh at Eugene Cross Park today.

The Steelmen are out of Celtic League contention, and will be playing for pride, but Edinburgh are having a storming season and will be looking for five points in their drive for a home quarter-final.

In former all black skipper Todd Blackadder, compatriot Martin Leslie and British Lion Simon Taylor, Edinburgh boast one of the best backrows in Europe. And with another Kiwi, Brendan Laney providing the back line spark and deadly goal kicking boot, Ebbw Vale face a huge task to record their first win of the season.

Ebbw Vale: (not available)

Edinburgh: D Lee; S Webster, B Laney, A Dickson, C Paterson; D Hodge, G Burns; A Jacobsen, D Hall, J Brannigan, N Hines, S Murray, T Blackadder (capt), S Taylor, A Hogg. Replacements: G Talac, C di Ciacca, G Perrett, A Dall, M Blair, G Shiel, C Joiner.

Referee: Olan Trevor (Ireland).

Out – Ebbw Vale: C Billen (back), D Penisini (knee), P Matthews (ankle)

Edinburgh: M di Rollo (knee), M Leslie (rested), G Whittingham (shoulder).

Previous meetings: Eight, with three wins each in the Welsh/Scottish League and Edinburgh winning 43-16 away and 41-17 home in the 1998-99 European Cup.

Last season: Ebbw Vale 15 Edinburgh 10; Edinburgh 49 Ebbw Vale 31.

Form guide: Edinburgh’s only win in four attempts at Ebbw Vale was in the Heineken Cup

CAERPHILLY v ULSTER (at Virginia Park, 2.30pm).

Caerphilly are in desperate need of breaking a Celtic League losing streak that now stretches eleven games. Unfortunately for them they are coming up against an Ulster side that need a result to secure qualification to the final eight.

The Castletown men so nearly broke their Celtic duck last weekend at St. Helens, bagging four tries before eventually dropping 32-37 to Swansea.

Ulster however should have too much class for Caerphilly, and will be aiming to travel back to Ireland with five points in the bag.

Caerphilly: (not yet available)
Ulster: B Cunningham; S Young, R Constable, J Bell, T Howe; D Humphreys, N Doak; J Fitzpatrick, M Sexton, R Kempson, G Longwell, J Davidson (capt), W
Brosnihan, T McWhirter. Replacements; S Best, P Shields, M Blair, N Best, K Campbell, A Larkin, S Stewart.

Referee: J Steele (Scotland).
Out – Caerphilly: T Taufahema (ankle), S Grainger (dislocated thumb), S Jarman.

Ulster: A Ward (ankle), S Coulter.
Previous meetings: None.

Form guide: Caerphilly have scored over 30 on three occasions this season, yet never won a Celtic

League match. Ulster have won seven of their nine
meetings with Welsh clubs.


Cardiff coach Dai young has been winning plaudits for the development of a side that promises much, and is beginning to deliver.

The Blue and Blacks have won their last three, while the Ravens have lost their last three -Resulting in Cardiff and Bridgend battling for the final qualification spot in Pool B.

Victory for the Blue and Blacks should settle the issue, but beware a wounded Bridgend side fighting for a place in the Celtic elite.

As revealed earlier this week on wru.co.uk. Dai Young is resting Iestyn Harris, with young prospect Nicky Robinson coming in at fly-half.

With Kevin Morgan sidelined for the autumn internationals, Wales coach Steve Hansen will be watching as Cardiff’s Rhys Williams goes head to head with Bridgend’s Matt James for the fullback spot.
CARDIFF v BRIDGEND (at the Arms Park, 2.30pm).
Cardiff: R Williams; A Sullivan, N Walne, P Muller, C Morgan; N Robinson, R Powell; T Payne, A Lewis, K Fourie, H Senekal, J Tait, R Appleyard, D Baugh, M Williams (capt). Replacements: G Powell, G Woods, A Jones, D McShane, R Smith, I Harris, M Allen.

Bridgend: M James; R Mustoe, D James, G Thomas (capt), C Warlow; S Mannix,
S Martens; P Booth, A Joy, J Thiel, D Jones, A Moore, N Budgett, R Bryan, C Harris. Replacements: A Carter, H Harries, C Horsman, C Loader, B Phillips, M Molitika, M Powell.

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

Out – Cardiff: E Lewis (hand), R Sowden-Taylor (knee ligaments), J Brownrigg (shoulder), D Dewdney (back spasm), S John (neck), J Robnson (dead leg), D van Vuuren (dead leg).
Bridgend: S Taumalolo (knee), A Havili, P Jones.

Last season: Bridgend 25 Cardiff 25; Cardiff 47 Bridgend 27.

Welsh League meetings: 22. Cardiff lead 10-8 on wins with four draws.

Form guide: Traditionally these are close matches though Cardiff have won four of the last five league meetings at home.

CONNACHT v PONTYPRIDD (at Galway Sportsground, 3,00pm).

Pontyprid head to Ireland’s Galway Sportsground brimming with confidence after winning four games on the bounce.

But they come against an inform Connacht side who remain unbeaten in this years Celtic competition.

For the Irish to stop the Valley Commandos, Connacht coach Steph Nel will have to come up with a plan to nullify a Ponty pack that has been dominant all season.

The front eight have picked up the form that saw five travel to South Africa in the summer, and with English prop Duncan Bell playing well, the Pontypridd pack look awesome.

Lyn Howell’s men will have to remain disciplined though. With veteran kicked Eric Elwood firing true, Connacht have every chance of making it six wins from six games.

Connacht: M McHugh; T Robinson, D O’Sullivan, S Moore, W Munn; E Elwood, E Reddan; D McFarland, M Uijs, R McCormack, W Waugh, R Frost, M Swift, J O’Sullivan, C Rigney. Replacements: P Bracken, J Flannery, D Browne, E Peters, M Wallis, M McPhail, J Norton.

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Bryant, E Lewis; C Sweeney/N Jenkins, P John; G Jenkins, M Davies (capt), D Bell, B Cockbain, R Sidoli, N Kelly, W O’Connor, M Owen. Replacements: J Lewis; Jenkins/Sweeney; G Baber; N Hennessy; M Rees; D McIntosh; G Lewis.

Referee: A Ireland (Scotland).

Out – Connacht: T Allnutt (cruciate ligament), J O’Connor (ankle), G Duffy, D Yapp, C Keane.

Pontypridd: S James (hamstring).

No previous Celtic League meetings.

Form guide: Pontypridd have never beaten an Irish side in the Celtic League, losing to Leinster and Ulster last season and Leinster again this season.

This clash makes the mouth water. Last year’s Celtic League finalists versus the team many people tip for the title.

Munster are 13-8 favourites to win the title, but Neath need a big performance ahead of next weekend’s Heineken Cup opener against Leicester- and they’ll prove a hard nut to crack in front of the home fans.

Neath coach Lyn Jones has added defensive steel to the Welsh side’s arsenal this season, and it will take an imaginative Munster side to penetrate the All Blacks back line.

With two world class kickers on show- Neath’s Lee Jarvis and Munster maestro Ronan O’Gara, any errors will be punished. This match will be close, and tight, and could come down to the pair’s goal kicking talents.

The winner will virtually be guaranteed a home quarter final, and an easier route to the final.

NEATH v MUNSTER (at the Gnoll, 5.30pm).
Neath: (from) Backs – G Morris, S Marsden, J Storey, D Tieuti, A Bateman, S Williams, L Jarvis, A Connor, A Moore, P Horgan. Forwards – D Jones, A Millward, A Jones, S Jones, B Williams, S Martin, G Llewellyn (capt), A Newman, S Tandy, N Bonner-Evans, H Jenkins, A Mocelutu.

Munster: J Staunton; J Kelly, M Mullins, R Henderson, M Lawlor; R O’Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, F Sheahan, J Hayes, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, J Williams (capt), A Foley, A Quinlan.

Replacements: (from) S Kerr, J Blaney,
M Galwey, E Halvey, D Leamy, M Prendergast, D Malone, J Holland, D Crotty.

Referee: C White (England).

Out – Neath: B Sinkinson (knee), A Matthews (knee), A Durston (bicep).

Munster: D Wallace, A Horgan, P O’Connell, M Cahill.

Previous meetings: 3 – one win each and one draw.

In the 1998/99 Heineken Cup, there was a draw 18-all at Neath and Munster won 34-10 at home. In last season’s Celtic League Neath won 30-22 at the Gnoll.

Form guide: Top match, with both having won four out of five this season

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