Guinness Pro14 – Round 1 Preview and Betting Tips

With the start of the Guinness PRO14, the professional Rugby Union tournament for clubs from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy and South Africa, season  just around the corner, the first fixture list for the newly expanded Championship has been announced. Read here the Guinness Pro14 – Round 1 Preview and Rugby Betting Tips for the most important matches on Friday 1st September 2017 and Saturday 2nd September 2017.

Friday 1st September 2017

Cardiff V Edinburgh

September proved to be a good month for the Cardiff Blues last season as they opened 2016/17 with four wins from their first four matches including a 34-16 win over Edinburgh on the opening day. The Blues managed nine wins from their 22 matches including a second win against the Scottish outfit. Their squad is much the same as last season while others around them have strengthened. Wins against London Scottish and, more impressively, Exeter Chiefs in pre-season will boost the team’s confidence.

Edinburgh only won six of their 22 games last season. They’ve got a new coach in place in Richard Cockerill and have made some intelligent acquisitions, including Mark Bennett and Robbie Fruan who will strengthen their midfield. They’ve managed a narrow loss to Sale Sharks in pre-season and a narrow win against Newcastle Falcons.

I expect this one to be a close encounter and perhaps one to avoid at the bookies. Cardiff’s home advantage gives them a slight edge.

Tip: PaddyPower are offering  25-1 for a -5 point handicap on a draw. It’s worth a look for anyone looking for an outside punt.

Munster v Benneton Treviso

After a poor start to last season, Munster was galvanised by the tragic passing of club stalwart Anthony Foley.  What followed was an incredible run of form that saw the Irish province reach the final of the Pro12 and the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup. They won’t start this season so slowly, and a home tie against Treviso will allow them to gather some momentum for the season ahead.

Treviso will struggle to compete again this season and the loss of Luke Mclean and Filo Paulo to London Irish won’t help the Italians.

This one’s a foregone conclusion despite Munster being likely to rest their returning Lions and the bookies agree with PaddyPower offering odds of 1-80 for a Munster win.

Tip: Avoid the match betting markets and look to the try scorer markets for value. At the time of writing odds aren’t available but I always back Keith Earls for an anytime try. He scored nine tries last season for Ireland. 

Ulster v Cheetahs

Ulster enter the season following back to back pre-season losses against London Wasps and Northampton Saints. They’ve lost Charles Piutau and Ruan Pienaar, two stand-out performers for the region. The signing of Christian Lealiifano will excite fans, but it remains to be seen if he can recapture the form he showed before his illness.

The Cheetahs are an unknown quantity for their Pro14 opponents. They’ve managed to keep together the majority of the Super Rugby squad which will help them as they start the new season. They’re entering the league after a long season with very little rest which is likely to take its toll come the end of the season.

Tip: Ulster have too much experience in this competition to be overawed by the first ever cross-continental Pro14 game. You can get the Cheetahs with a +9 handicap with PaddyPower at 10-11. The Cheetahs will want to make a statement which will keep the score line close. 

Saturday 2nd September 2017                                        

Ospreys v Zebre

Three losses in three pre-season matches, including a 40-14 loss to Leicester Tigers isn’t the preparation the Ospreys will have been hoping for. They are still waiting for their Lions to return to pre-season, and it was against a strong Leicester team. The Ospreys will be pleased to be starting at home to Zebre as it will give them some time to gather momentum.

Existence in the Pro12 has been difficult for Zebre, and things are unlikely to get any easier this season. Off field financial problems have put the club’s existence in jeopardy.

For me, this is another foregone conclusion. PaddyPower has The Ospreys as 1-100 favourites.

Tip: James Hook is making his return to Wales, take a look at him for anytime try scorer. He’s likely to start at outside half in the absence of Dan Biggar (odds currently unavailable). I also think Ospreys will win by over 40 points. Look at the winning margin markets for value.

Dragons v Leinster

It’s been a tough pre-season for the Dragons. They’ve played four and lost four, conceding on average 50 points per game, including shipping 71 points against Northampton Saints. The signatures of Zane Kirchner and Gavin Henson add some much needed experience to the Dragons squad, but it looks like it’s going to be a difficult season. They only managed four wins last season and finished below Treviso in the standings.

In contrast Leinster have recorded impressive wins against Gloucester and Bath in pre-season and boast one of the strongest squads in the Pro14. The additions of Scott Fardy and James Lowe will make Leinster formidable opposition in the inaugural Pro14 season.

Leinster will be missing their Lions such as well as injured centre duo Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose but they will still have too much for the Dragons.

Tip: Odds are currently unavailable, but I like Dave Kearney to score anytime. I also expect Leinster to win by 10-14 points, look at the winning margin markets again here. 

Scarlets v Southern Kings

Last season’s champions Scarlets will be looking to compete again this season. They’ve lost Liam Williams but brought in Leigh Halfpenny as a replacement. Southern Kings will be a complete unknown to their hosts, but Scarlets will be pleased to be starting the season at home.

Despite joining the Pro14 it’s been a turbulent time for Southern Kings since the end of the Super Rugby season. As uncertainty around the franchise’s future rolled on a number of players left, leaving the squad looking a little thread bare. This coupled with a short pre-season and long distance travel will make life difficult for the South African team.

This is a difficult one to call as the Southern Kings will want to hit the ground running. I think the Scarlets will just edge it because of their home advantage.

Tip: Paddy Power are offering 10-11 on a +18 handicap for the Southern Kings. That looks like good value.

Connacht v Glasgow Warriors

Connacht will be unaffected by Lions absences so will be hoping for a strong start to the Pro14 season. They suffered a heavy defeat to English giants London Wasps in pre-season but followed it up with an impress home win against Bristol. They will hope to improve on their nine wins last season.

Like Connacht, Glasgow will be hoping for a strong start to the season. A young Warriors side lost narrowly to Northampton Saints before beating Dragons by 40-23.

Glasgow will be without talismanic duo Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg and Connacht’s home advantage will make life difficult for the Scots.

Tip: The bookies are expecting a close game, as am I. I’m backing Glasgow Warriors to edge it at evens with Paddy Power.