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United Rugby Championship - Round 3 Preview And Predictions

United Rugby Championship - Round 3 Preview And Predictions

Take a look at some Round 3 previews and predictions for the United Rugby Championship. International stars return to their clubs in top of the table clash.

Sep 30, 2022 by RugbyPass
United Rugby Championship - Round 3 Preview And Predictions

A new dawn is upon us, as Round 3 of the 2022 United Rugby Championship gets set for kickoff.

With five teams clinging to unbeaten records, at least one of them will leave the round with their first loss.

In a big boost for fans of the league, several international superstars will make their return in time for the teams to jostle for an early tilt at the top spot on the table.

Here at FloRugby, we have you covered with live streaming off all URC fixtures, so let’s take a look at a number of key points heading into this evening’s action.

Key MatchUp – Ulster vs Leinster 

Simply mouth-watering, this clash pits the first- and second-placed teams on the table and will be our first indicator of the season as to who will lead the charge for Ireland’s hope of regaining the title. 

Belfast has always been a tough place to come away with a result for a number of reasons. 

First, there is the brilliantly hostile, yet jovial Kingspan Stadium crowd, which gets behind their team, while simultaneously jumping on every opposition mistake. 

Secondly, and possibly unfairly, is the view Ulster players have a tougher job of breaking into the Irish squads, even when in form. Take for example, John Cooney’s continual absence from the setup. This perceived slight leads to just the right amount of us versus them to build a stronghold cult following for the northern province. 

All in all, this siege mentality has given plenty of ammunition for head coach Dan McFarland to work with. It would, however, be naïve to think Ulster merely is fueled by passion, as they play one of the most tactically astute, yet exciting, games in club rugby. 

Ulster’s visitors have one of the very best track records in the game, having won eight Pro 14/ URC titles and four Heineken Champions Cups. Perhaps the most impressive thing is Leinster’s 70% win record dating back to 1995.  

Dominating the Irish squads since 2009, Leinster remains kingpin, despite losing both of their URC fixtures to Ulster last season. If McFarland’s side can make it three wins on the bounce over their southern rivals, it certainly would put the rest of the league on notice.

Helping Leinster’s challenge will be the return of Irish captain Jonathan Sexton, who starts his first game of the season from the bench. In the wake of the unfortunate shoulder injury sustained by breakthrough star Ciaran Frawley, Sexton’s return is a major boost for the side. 

Honorable mention – Stormers vs Edinburgh will be a cracker!

Munster To End Slide At Home To Zebre

Currently joint with Connacht as the most disappointing teams thus far, Munster needs to get its act together in Round 3.

Grumblings of a less-than-intense preseason have been doing the rounds in the province, as the side has looked out on its feet with exhaustion at times. 

Missing several key young players who are away on the Emerging Ireland Tour does not help their cause. Irrespective of being undermanned, Munster possesses a squad stacked with Irish internationals who have performed time and again when the pressure comes on.

Lose at home to Zebre, and alarm bells will be ringing around Thomond Park, and new head coach Graham Rowntree will be under severe pressure.

Briefly touching on Connacht, their leading player, Bundee Aki, has been handed a hefty eight-week suspension following his red card and subsequent antics in Round 2.

Bok Players Remain Unavailable For Sharks

Shark’s head coach Sean Everitt has confirmed that the Durban-based side will only begin to reintegrate their international stars from Round 4.

Names such as Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzabeth, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi and Jaden Hendrikse all have played significant minutes for the Springboks in this seasons Rugby Championship. 

Reintegrating them back into the Sharks squad throughout the season will see Everitt’s side become one of the strongest squads in the league.

In the meantime, a second successive road win against the Dragons this weekend would line the Sharks up for a real tilt at the top of the table before heading to Dublin to take on Leinster.

Los Pumas Star To Boost Edinburgh  

Argentinean star Emiliano Boffelli has linked up with his Edinburgh teammates in Cape Town ahead of their clash with the Stormers.

Boffelli has had about as good of a summer season as possible, having been a key factor in Los Pumas series win over Scotland, before being their key man in wins over New Zealand and Australia. 

A sharp shooting goal kicker with immense pace and eye for a gap, the winger is fast becoming one of the very best players in the world. At 27 years old, he is only just entering his prime and will be a key component to Mike Blairs squad for the remainder of the season.

Edinburgh has yet to name their side at the time of writing but should Boffelli be in the squad he could prove to be the difference for the Scots.

Bulls Cocked Locked And Ready To Rock

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has taken a different approach to Everitt and the Sharks, and he has named several return Springbok players in his side to take on Connacht.

Forming possibly the best-attacking back three in the tournament, White has named the returned Bok duo of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie, alongside fellow Bok S’bu Nkosi. 

All three players are capable of ripping a defense apart. Should they bed in their combination quickly, as many expect, it could make for a long evening for Connacht. 

Elsewhere, Johan Goosen’s return to the fly-half position is a big deal for South Africa Rugby fans, as the former junior star could well still have a future in the position for the national side ahead of the World Cup in 2023.

In the forward pack, the Springbok trio of Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden and Marcell Coetzee form the most intimidatingly physical backrow in the league. All three men are giants who pulverize opponents at the contact point.

White and his charges are serious about going one step further than last year and winning the league this season.


Bulls vs. Connacht

A wounded Connacht will put up a fight, but without Aki, they are in an even more difficult position than they were last week. Bulls by 20.

Leinster vs. Ulster

A battle royale awaits the Kingspan Stadium. Both sides are looking to lay down a marker, and there will be individual battles all over the park. Jacob Stockdale will be an interesting one to watch, as he looks to regain his world-class form, following a full year out injured. Ulster by three. 

Cardiff vs. Lions

Both sides are 1-1 coming into this clash, but their fortunes couldn’t have been more different in Round 2, as the Lions picked up a hard-fought win, while Cardiff was thumped. Taluepe Faletau’s return is significant and should help the Welsh to a tight win. Cardiff by one point.

Stormers vs. Edinburgh

A tough one to call, Edinburgh looked fantastic against the Bulls, while the Stormers looked powerful against Connacht. The return of several Springboks most notably playmaker Damian Willemse will be keep the Champions undefeated. Stormers by six.

Ospreys vs. Glasgow

Still reeling from a silly one-point loss to the Lions, this has become a must win for the Ospreys. Glasgow bounced back from a shocking loss to Benetton in Round 1 to hammer Cardiff with beautiful attacking flow. Glasgow by two.

Munster vs. Zebre

Another loss is unfathomable for Munster, Zebre has been brilliant in defeat in the opening two rounds. Now on the road for the first time this season, they will encounter a grumpy Munster team, which has been getting it in the neck all week from fans and media alike. Munster by 20.

Benetton vs. Scarlets

This may come as a surprise to those who haven’t been following the league closely, but Benetton is a real team this season! Scarlets have some great ball players, but the Italians will pick up another home win to get their season off to a great start. Benetton by 10. 

Dragons vs. Sharks

Upset of the week, the ultra-powerful Sharks scrapped home with a win against Zebre in Round 2. 

Admittedly it was the Durban side’s first game of the season. Still missing their Springbok stars, now is the perfect time for the Dragons to back up their win over Munster with another major scalp. Dragons by three.

Written by Philip Bendon