Guinness Pro14 Semi-finals ready for Action
LLANELLI, WALES - APRIL 07: Glasgow Warriors Stuart Hogg in action during todays match during the Guinness PRO14 Round 19 match between Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors at Parc y Scarlets on April 7, 2018 in Llanelli, Wales. (Photo by Ashley Crowden - CameraSport via Getty Images)

In it’s seventeenth year, the Guinness Pro14 has seen much change. Two additional teams, and a wider audience have been positively received. So now, as the Guinness Pro14 semi-finals ready for action, anticipation is building like never before.

Four teams will be ready for action. Four of the best, including the current holders; Scarlets. They open this weekends playoff matches, with a riveting contest against the high-flying Scottish side, from Glasgow.

Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets – Friday May 18, 7:45pm

The battle on Friday night, is one that has been fought over for countless years. North v South. Although, with the International nature of the Celtic League, the combatants will look to meet on more peaceful terms.

Of course, not a literal battle, but the two the sides will certainly lock horns.

With the head coaches of each squad both coming from New Zealand, the style of rugby is a homogenized version. The tough, British style. Mixed with a breath of excitement. The combination is subtle between the Warriors; coached by Dave Rennie. He has adapted the group he came upon, in his first full season ‘up North’.

And what an achievement. He has taken his side to a 15/21 result, and hosts the champion Scarlets. His group will be confident, after success in their regular season. However, memories of the 8-26 defeat back in April, will also act as a motivating force.

Welsh pride on the line for Scarlets

Head coach Wayne Pivac has developed a powerful unit. Over the course of several seasons, they have accomplished much. Most importantly, they have experience of winning away from home. Like the Crusaders, it is a quality few hold.

The one major strength missing, has been consistency. Lacking that factor, it could be an influencing factor here, with the talent of Glasgow Warriors being a main concern, in the Pro14 semi-finals.

But the Scarlets are admired. As much for their on-field play; as much for their coaching group. And with rumours of Pivac being considered for the Wales role in 2020, a run towards another Guinness Pro14 final, would add to his legacy in the regions.

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Across the Irish Sea, the RDS Stadium will be overflowing. Overflowing with fans, as much as expectation.

Leinster v Munster – Saturday May 19, 3:15pm

There is a huge expectation in Irish Rugby. It has not only filtered down from the national teams success, but also in the proud history of European Club competition. So entering the Guinness Pro14 semi-finals carrying a shining Challenge Cup is by rights, the best preparation.

Leinster have just completed celebrations of another Cup win. But while they enjoyed the party, they would have been more reserved than normal. That is because their coach Leo Cullen would have insisted so. The only player and coach to have won a European trophy, he would have wanted them to stay focused.

But still, a tough schedule is the one element which all 23 Leinster men must seek to negate. No amount of energy drinks can bolster you, in a highly charged playoff game. Stamina and guts are going to be on show this weekend.

Dublin setting for Munster to recapture finals place

Munster have made the trip North-East to Dublin, seeking a place in the final. A place where they have fond memories – but only distant, since their past successes.

Finishing second to the Glasgow Warriors, they’ve held a better defensive pattern, and must be solid against the home side. Put up a solid wall, wait for the hosts to fatigue, and then hope to strike.

That might be a simple plan, but International class of Munster; Peter O’Mahony (see above image),Keith Earls, Conor Murray and CJ Stander, will all have goals of continuing their high-performances seen in 2018 so far.

Leinster will play their part certainly – like the Warriors will too – to show that home advantage is still the most fundamental ingredient of success. Hold that, and have a greater number of fans on hand, then the cheers of the crowd are one thing to boost your chances in the 2017/18 Guinness Pro14 league.

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Enjoy this weekend’s action, with the Guinness Pro14 signalling the build-up to June, and the anticipated International season.

Listen to ‘In the Bin’ rugby pod, for more summary and analysis of the Pro14 semi-finals.

 

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