Another new dawn for rugby in these regions, clubs, supporters and sponsors are all hoping the tournament organizers have found the right formula.
he United Rugby Championship (URC) kicks off next Friday, as the four main South African franchises, the Lions, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers, join the Northern Hemisphere party in a 16-team competition.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on plans for last season, but it’s a fresh start for everyone, and with that, the RCU should have every chance to prove it can be a success.
New laws, including the 50:22 (if a player kicks the ball from inside their own half and bounces in opposition 22 before making contact, the attacking team will throw in the roster) have been introduced, which will add another layer of intrigue to the league’s new-look.
The absence of the Springbok stars for much of the start of the season due to the rugby championship is unfortunate, but as it stands, plenty of talent will be on display, as Leinster seeks to assert his dominance by winning a fifth title. the rebound.
South African teams should improve the competitiveness of a league that has often struggled, so let’s take a look at how the provinces have evolved.
Players in: Alex Wootton (Munster), Mack Hansen (Brumbies), Leva Fifta (Grenoble), Shayne Bolton (Shimlas), Greg McGrath, Sam Illo (Leinster), Oran McNulty, Cian Prendergast, Dylan Tierney-Martin (promoted from the Academy) .
Quinn Roux (Toulon), SÃ©Ã¡n O’Brien (Exeter), Stephen Kerins (Ealing), Conor Kenny (Newcastle), Stephen Fitzgerald, Paddy McAllister, Cillian Gallagher, SeÃ¡n O’Brien (retired), Conor Dean, Colm de BuitlÃ©ar (out).
Last season (PRO16): 2nd Conference B.
Outlook: There have been some major changes off the pitch over the summer, as Andy Friend shuffles his pack ahead of his fourth season in charge.
The Australian has a new coach look on board, as Limerick’s duo Mossy Lawler (offense and skills) and Colm Tucker (defense) are promoted from the Academy, with Pete Wilkins moving from defense to offense , while the South African Dewald Senekal (attackers) joined from Grenoble.
On the playing front, Quinn Roux is a major loss, so a lot is expected of Fijian international Leva Fifta, who has been tricked into adding volume.
There is an exciting group of emerging talent led by Niall Murray and Cian Prendergast, but injured Denis Buckley will be missed, so it will be up to seasoned players like Jack Carty and Ultan Dillane to step it up. With so many new voices in the team behind the scenes, it will all depend on how quickly Connacht can adapt to the changes and freeze over time.
One to watch: Sam Illo (head tight). A standout performer for Ireland in this year’s U-20 Six Nations, product Old Wesley is a powerful running back, looking to have a bright future, as he begins his first professional contract.
Title odds: 80/1.
Players in: Michael Ala’alatoa (Crusaders), Nick McCarthy (Munster), Tom Clarkson, David Hawkshaw, Michael Milne (Academy).
Players released: Rowan Osborne, Paddy Patterson (Munster), Cian Kelleher (Ealing), Greg McGrath, Sam Illo (Connacht), Hugh O’Sullivan (London Irish), Michael Bent (Taranaki), Scott Fardy (retired).
Last season: Winners.
Outlook: The Leinster’s quest to add a fifth star to their jersey has ended in disappointment, but they have a chance of winning a fifth straight national title this season. Once again, Leo Cullen’s men are the team to beat.
Hugh Hogan (contact skills) is a significant loss for the team behind the scenes, as is Scott Fardy (retired), who has been instrumental, especially when the internationals were absent.
Michael Ala’alatoa looks like a nifty acquisition – it will be interesting to see what impact the arrival of the Samoan tight head has on his accessory colleagues.
Johnny Sexton turned 36 this summer and having spent it at home rather than in South Africa with the Lions, the talismanic skipper will feel like he has something to prove, as will James Ryan. Leinster’s depth remains the envy of the RCU and while it may not be as strong as in previous seasons, something special will be needed to prevent them from reclaiming their title.
One to watch: Jamie Osborne (center / back). There is a real craze for the 19-year-old versatile Naas. A class runner, Osborne has impressed the Irish U-20s after playing for Leinster six times last season.
Title odds: 4/6.
Players in: Simon Zebo (Racing), Jason Jenkins (Toyota Verblitz), Rowan Osborne, Paddy Patterson (Leinster), Declan Moore (Sydney University), Jake Flannery, James French, SeÃ¡n French, Ben Healy, John Hodnett, Thomas Ahern, Jack Crowley, Jack Daly, Josh Wycherley (Academy).
Players released: JJ Hanrahan (Clermont), James Cronin (Biarritz), Rhys Marshall (North Harbor), Nick McCarthy (Leinster), Alex Wootton (Connacht), Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell (retired).
Last season: Finalists.
Outlook: Last season’s final loss to Leinster will hurt again, as Munster’s long wait for a trophy now extends into his eleventh year. Expectations are high as Johann van Graan aims to end the drought in his fifth season at the helm.
The coach ticket is settled, while the return of Simon Zebo will take off the faithful of Munster.
The unlucky RG Snyman is crucial to Van Graan’s plan, but after enduring such a gruesome time with injuries, it remains to be seen how long it will take for him to return to his prime.
Damian de Allende’s Springboks engagements mean he won’t be available until December, while compatriot Jason Jenkins has been hired to bolster the field in light of CJ Stander’s retirement. With a plethora of exciting young players now in the senior squad and Joey Carbery in great shape, fans are excited about what to expect. However, ironing out the issues in the game plan remains paramount.
One to watch: Thomas Ahern (padlock). Injuries haven’t been kind to the extremely talented Waterford man and although Munster has chosen to bleed him slowly, fans are hoping this is the season the 22-year-old breaks through.
Title odds: 9/2.
Players in: Duane Vermeulen (Bulls), Mick Kearney (Zebre), Aaron Sexton, Nathan Doak, Tom Stewart, Ethan McIlroy, Callum Reid, David McCann, Cormac Izuchukwu (Academy).
Players released: Alby Mathewson, Kyle McCall (released), Matt Faddes (Otago), Bill Johnston (Ealing), Adam McBurney (Edinburgh), Hayden Hyde (Harlequins).
Last season: 2nd (Conference A).
Outlook: It has been too long since Ulster got their hands on a trophy and they will face it in their quest to fix it this season.
Even at 35 and arriving after the November testing, Duane Vermeulen is a game-changing signing who will seriously improve Ulster’s pack.
Dan McFarland could have done without his behind-the-scenes team Dwayne Peel, but he’s hopeful that Dan Soper, who has done a great job with several of the province’s young players, can add something different to the offense.
In a very interesting move, McFarland turned to the man credited with helping keep Limerick pitchers’ place at the top of the table, as Mikey Kiely comes on board as athletic performance coach. . Switching sports will be a tricky challenge, but if Kiely can have the same impact with Ulster, it could prove to be a masterstroke from McFarland.
A lack of punch up front has been a problem in the past, and it could be so again until Vermeulen’s arrival, as Ulster look to find a way to win their first title since 2006 .
One to watch: Nathan Doak (scrum half). Doak hopes to build on a great summer with the Irish U-20s. A strong set of versatile skills, he can lead the game from age nine, thanks to his tactical acumen he gets from daddy Neil – former Ulster coach and player.
Title odds: 8/1.
Explanation: The URC format
– Sixteen teams from five nations will compete in the same classification for 18 rounds.
– Four regional pools (Irish, Welsh, South African, Italian and Scottish) have been set up to ensure the sustainability of the derbies.
– The top eight teams will advance to the URC quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals and the final.
– The teams will be ranked from 1 to 8 to decipher the home advantage for the round of 16.
– The top-ranked team in each of the four regional pools will automatically qualify for next season’s Champions Cup, along with the next four highest-ranked teams in the 16-team end-of-season table.