Pitchside with Ferris: Munster v Leinster, Exeter v Saracens and more
Munster v Leinster, Sat 28th, 18:00
If this interpro lives up to the last meeting between these two then we should have a fantastic match. At Thomond Park last time out we had yellow cards, young guns like Fineen Wycherley body slamming Jonny Sexton… along with some outstanding rugby played.
Munster ran out 26-17 winners but it was a match full of drama and passion, just what you would expect between these two rivals. Leinster remain unbeaten in all completions this season but surely this will be their toughest test to date? Munster, off the back of a super win at The Sportsground against Connacht, will fancy their chances.
With a few of their Internationals back after a weekend off; they should be close to full strength, and hopefully we will see the Munster captain Peter O’Mahony leading his team out after missing the last two games through injury.
He will be relishing this opportunity, but so might some of the young guns for Leinster. Will Connors, Max Deegan and Scott Penny will back themselves once again to lead from the front and give their Leinster team the platform they will need to win this game.
However, I could see a few more changes being made to this Leinster team by head coach Leo Cullen. He makes a good habit of keeping his squad happy and this is due to everyone getting an opportunity on the big stage. And his players have delivered so far this season.
Prediction: Leinster have leaked a lot of tries over the last two weeks, their defence will need to be much stronger if they are to win this match.
A tight affair but something tells me this Leinster team want to keep this unbeaten run going. Munster fans won’t like me saying this but I’m predicting a Leinster Win.
Ulster v Connacht, Fri 27th, 19:35
Ulster should be big favourites for this match and rightly so. Scoring 42 points against Leinster away from home last week takes some doing.
The last time Leinster conceded more points than this was on 23rd January 2016 vs Wasps… it just goes to show that Ulster really are starting to find their groove. And with a lot of front-line players due to come back into the Ulster starting line-up, it makes Connacht’s task a whole lot harder.
Connacht, however, were the last team to beat Ulster in Belfast and that might spur them on to put in a big performance away from home. I’m not sure a big performance is going to get the job done for Connacht due to Ulster being a match for anyone these days.
Connacht always play with heart and desire, and they will give Ulster a game, but they won’t get the win.
Prediction: A huge marker is going to be laid down by Ulster at home. I see a comprehensive win by more than 10 points and for Connacht to run out of steam come the last quarter.
Exeter v Saracens, Sun 29th, 15:00
The Gallagher Premiership seems to bring the best out of these two sides. The two finalists from last year are going head-to-head over the Christmas period and I hope it lives up to its big billing.
The Exeter fans who will be turning out in their thousands at a sold-out Sandy Park are hoping for the same. Last week Exeter went to the wounded animal in Leicester Tigers. They were the better team on the day but left it late to secure the bonus point win at Welford Road.
The Tigers did cause the Chiefs problems and Saracens will be looking to do the same this weekend. The London-based club are still in a points deficit after accepting the 35 point deduction due to breaching the rules of the salary cap.
Looking at the league table is very misleading because Saracens are the form team, but yet they are at the foot of the table.
Will we see Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Vunipola brothers, Elliot Daly…or will we see a Saracens team that is strategically selected for their long- term goal this season; to not get relegated?
Prediction: Exeter Chiefs are sitting pretty at the top of the league. Four wins from six and top of the lot on 20 points. I believe they will target this game and plant another seed of doubt into the Saracens set-up of just how hard a task they have on their hands this year.
Team selection is key to the outcome of this game. But if it goes the way I think it will, then I would be backing Exeter to get the win and remain the favourites for this year’s Gallagher Premiership title.
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!