Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
GKIPA, GP14 & WORLD RUGBY CLASSIC!
The calendar year is rapidly coming to a close but thankfully the action on the pitch is starting back up again and The Rugby Channel is ready to bring all of it to you LIVE this weekend from England, Scotland, and Ireland!
The ending of 2017 is the perfect time to either become an annual subscriber yourself or to give someone a gift they’ll definitely use all year long, twelve glorious months of The Rugby Channel that delivers more LIVE rugby than you can realistically watch, plus a massive amount of archived material. Here’s what’s coming up as the year winds down.
The last two weekends of 2017 are packed with fixtures from the Greene King IPA Championship and the Guinness PRO14, with eight total matches over the next fourteen days. Both competitions have reached the halfway point and are gearing up for huge kickoffs to their second halves, so if you don’t Subscribe Now you’ll miss some amazing holiday rugby.
Plus, once again one of the sport’s finest events will be shown on The Rugby Channel, the 2017 Bermuda World Rugby Classic! This is one of my all-time favorites and after watching this comprehensive recap program, you’ll no doubt be looking into how you can attend the 2018 edition of the Classic!
Round 12 of the Greene King IPA Championship gets underway with table leaders Bristol hosting sixth placed Cornish Pirates at Ashton Gate.
Bristol have been unstoppable so far in 2017 with eleven wins and no losses for a total of 54 competition points. Only once have they failed to notch a try scoring bonus point, way back in the opening round in September when they beat Hartpury RFC 26 – 15.
Bristol are laser focused on getting back into the Premiership and with no playoffs this year they know that dominating the ladder is the way to do that. Bristol has more talent than any other club in the GKIPA. Coach Pat Lam is obviously building a team to eventually withstand the rigors at the top level of English rugby. Winning every single match has to at least be an unspoken goal.
That’s why this fixture against Cornish Pirates is so important. Pirates are the only team that has come close to toppling Bristol this season, losing 29 – 31 in Round 2 when Bristol needed a late try-saving tackle to hang on to win after a furious second half comeback.
Pirates have also been on a bit of a tear of late, winning four of their last five contests and steadily moving up the ladder. An upset over Bristol could see them vault all the way up to third position.
This will be a good one to enjoy on Friday, don’t miss it!
One of the best ideas implemented by the new Guinness PRO14 was to place added emphasis on the various derby matches, especially for teams from the same country that found themselves in different conferences when the competition expanded.
As a result, Christmas Week in the GP14 is loaded with highly-charged derbies like Edinburgh v Glasgow.
Edinburgh are in fourth place in Conference B with 28 competition points from six wins and four losses. In their most recent GP14 matches they travelled to South Africa where they beat the Southern Kings and fell to the Cheetahs.
More recently they got their second wins over both London Irish and Krasny Yar in the European Challenge Cup and are leading Pool 4 with a perfect record thus far. Success in Europe - even if it is against less than stellar opposition - breeds confidence and Edinburgh will need that as they come up against their unbeaten countrymen for the first time in this campaign.
Glasgow are the surprise team of the 2017/18 Guinness PRO14, not because they weren’t supposed to be good, but because nobody expected them to be quite this good! They are undefeated after ten rounds, have registered wins over Leinster and Munster, and have scored more points than any other team in the comp.
Their European record is somewhat discordant though, as they have yet to notch a single victory, losing to Exeter and Leinster early and going down to Montpellier in their last two outings in December. The key for the Warriors will be to put those losses behind them and re-focus on this tournament.
Motivation against Edinburgh won’t be an issue as the best Scottish talent in the world will be on full display at Murrayfield. You absolutely have to watch this one!
Connacht got off to a slow start in the Guinness PRO14 but their recent performances in the Challenge Cup should have them in a decent frame of mind on Saturday when they take on Ulster at the Sportsground.
Two consecutive wins over Brive will help erase the sting of road losses to Cardiff and Zebre in Rounds 9 and 10. Sitting in fifth in Conference A, Connacht still has a shot at making a playoff run but it has to start with a win over Ulster.
Ulster are playing some quality rugby at the moment, having just beaten Harlequins home and away in the Champions Cup, no easy task despite Quins being mid table in the Premiership. Before that though, they needed some serious late heroics to secure a draw versus the Dragons at Rodney Parade and also to beat Benetton at Kingspan.
Ulster are third in Conference B with 35 points, trailing Leinster by 2 and Scarlets by 5. If they want to stay up with the leaders and eventually pass them, what they can’t afford to do is let down against struggling teams like Connacht. Ulster will need to get after them early and keep the scoreboard ticking over because the longer Connacht stays in the match at home, the more of a threat they become.
This might not be the prettiest match this weekend, especially if the conditions are poor, but you are guaranteed to see some hard-nosed rugby if you tune in!
MUNSTER V LEINSTER – Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 10:15 AM ET
St. Stephen’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland and what better way to celebrate it than to join thousands of your closest friends and watch the two best teams in the country play rugby!
These matches are always hard-fought and in their first meeting in Round 6 it was Leinster that came out on top 23 – 17. That match was played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. This one will be at the significantly smaller and more Munster friendly Thomond Park in Limerick.
There’s never much between these two Irish powerhouses. Both won their last two GP14 fixtures, Munster dismantling Ospreys and Zebre while Leinster hammered Benetton and the Dragons. Both are currently in second place in their respective conferences, with Munster 12 points behind Glasgow on 36 in A and Leinster 3 points adrift of Scarlets on 37 in B.
They’ve scored and allowed just about the same amount of points and tries, the only real difference is that Munster is 7 – 3 while Leinster is 8 – 2, owing to the defeat the men in blue inflicted on the men in red back in October.
The similarities continue in Europe where both teams lead their pools and are both coming off back-to-back victories in December, Munster over Leicester Tigers and Leinster over the Premiership leading Exeter Chiefs.
Who will win this clash? You’ll have to check it out LIVE on The Rugby Channel on Tuesday to find out. I can’t wait!
BERMUDA WORLD RUGBY CLASSIC – Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 1:00 PM ET
Every year for the past thirty, Bermuda has hosted a wonderful gathering of rugby lovers from around the globe. Some of them play, some of them watch, and everyone has a tremendous time.
The 2017 version of the World Rugby Classic featured eight teams with incredible talent and amazing rugby pedigrees. The opening matches pitted the Classic Pumas against Rugby Canada, the Classic Lions taking on France Classic Rugby, the Classic All Blacks meeting the USA Classic Eagles, and the Classic Springboks versus the Rugby Italian Classic XVs.
If you’ve never seen or heard of the WRC, be sure to watch this show and you’ll certainly add a new destination to your rugby bucket list. And if you’ve previously watched or attended, give it a look and re-live the magic of Bermuda!
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