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URC Season 23/24 Block 1

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Oakdene
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Post by Welshmushroom Tue 26 Sep 2023, 10:02 am

So the new season is a few weeks away so I thought I would look at the opening block of games and look at teams that should do fairly well in that first block while the World Cup is still going. I'm assuming most home nations will give rest periods after the world cup so I would imagine we won't be seeing Welsh, Irish, SA, Italy and Scottish internationals back during block 1 - opening 6 rounds.

I'll cover these by clubs but feel free to add your own thoughts to this thread or if you disagree with any of my opinions.

Scarlets - On paper they look like their starting 15 is strong on paper. I'm also not sure how much rest will be afforded to Lousi and Fifita given they play for a Tier 2 nation in Tonga. I'd imagine unlike the welsh internationals we might see these which will strengthen them even further. But the draw to begin with is horrible. Away trip to SA against both Stormers and Bulls is horrible opener. Then they get couple of welsh teams followed by a brutal 3 game away run. I don't fancy their chances here to do well in block 1.

Dragons - Backline looks ok in the startin 15. Our pack hopefully can get them some ball. We wont be the worst starting 15 side in the league in block 1. But not the worst either. A fair few home games in that opening block which is nice. Probably the best block to face Leinster at RP. Easier trip to SA compared to Scarlets in R6 & R7 as we will be facing Lions and Sharks. Could be placed higher than the Scarlets by round 7.

Cardiff - Lots been made about the amount of exits at Arms park. But on paper the starting 15 do look pretty good compared to all the sides in the league missing large amounts of internationals. But it's Cardiff and there have been way to many seasons were they simply don't deliver. They do have a easier opening 7 rounds though and I would imagine they will be better than the 2 above.

Ospreys - Backline looks good on paper. Seriously inexperienced in the tight 5 though and the ones that are, not exactly top draw pros. Never really rated Both at tighthead for example. They do have a good block 1 draw though. Can see them as the second highest welsh team after round 7 but only due to them playing some weaker sides.

Munster - Starting 15 look really solid. Lots of experience. Got a really nice draw as well. Could see them topping the league by round 7 but possibly second. Defo top 4 by round 7 in any case.

Leinster - with so many players away they look weaker. They still will have some experience and Ruddock will play a big part in leadership for them. Obviously their academy is great. But if they did lose a couple of early games they could struggle to recover. But for me the draw has been kind to them again. I do think they will lose a couple though. If they are not top 4 by R7 they will be top half of the table for sure.

Ulster - Possibly the strongest starting 15 of all the teams in Block 1 as they are not affected as much by call ups. Great draw as well. Have to be front runners for first place by R7.

Connacht - Solid enough 15. But still weaker in the front 8 than some of the other teams. Not the easiest fixture list with a SA away trip as well. Mid table by R7.

Edinburgh - Awful last season. Ravaged by call ups as well. Still some big bruisers in the front 5 but behind that its paper thin. Nice fixture list though so possibly mid table but behind Connacht after R7.

Glasgow - Much better place than Edinburgh. Backrow is a bit of a problem at the minute for them I would imagine and Outside centre. May have to move McDowall there and bring a fly half to 12. Big opening match against Leinster. But should they win that it could set them up nicely. Top 6 for sure by round 7. Possibly top 4 though as well.

Treviso - ravaged by internationals. Will they get them back earlier though if Italy exit pool stages. possibly so that could play a part in R5-7. Even without I think they still have some quality players available. So so fixture list as well. Mid table above Connacht though.

Zebre - Last place, can't be overly positive even though they have brought in a couple of quality players in the summer.

Bulls - pack looks great on paper. Backline not great though. But they can play 10 man rugby. I'd be surprised if they are not pushing top 4 by R7. They do have a tricky 4 game away patch though in the middle. But their pack should be strong for all but Ulster.

Lions - Almost same team as last year but Hendrikse will be a big loss. They do have a fairly good pack though. Think its lower half of the table though because they also have a 4 game away patch that might not go well with a tough SA opener as well. Possibly around 10/11.

Stormers - 4 key players at the WC but aside from that not to weak. Lot of away games though with 5 out of 7 away from home. Don't think that will help them break into the top 4. Top 6 though for sure.

Sharks - Good team on paper even without internationals there. But they were awful at times last year. Lots of away fixtures as well. Mid table team after round 7.

Could look like something like this by the end of R7

1 Ulster
2 Munster
3 Bulls
4 Glasgow Warriors
5 Stormers
6 Leinster
7 Benetton
8 Cardiff
9 Connacht
10 Sharks
11 Lions
12 Edinburgh
13 Ospreys
14 Dragons
15 Scarlets
16 Zebre

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Post by Kingshu Tue 26 Sep 2023, 1:39 pm

Ulster for the first time in a long time, I'm not optimistic about the season coming beimg better than the season before. Overall squad looks weaker, coaching/tatics (apart from driving maul) have gone backwards, and though they said they aim to use the backs more, there was no change in coaching set up, so Im not full of confidence, and doubt we will see RB, Lowry, Hume etc hit their 2021 form. Think its going to be a very tough season for Ulster. From a few season ago being 2nd best province, to now arguably being 4th.

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Post by Welshmushroom Tue 26 Sep 2023, 2:34 pm

Kingshu wrote:Ulster for the first time in a long time, I'm not optimistic about the season coming beimg better than the season before. Overall squad looks weaker, coaching/tatics (apart from driving maul) have gone backwards, and though they said they aim to use the backs more, there was no change in coaching set up, so Im not full of confidence, and doubt we will see RB, Lowry, Hume etc hit their 2021 form. Think its going to be a very tough season for Ulster. From a few season ago being 2nd best province, to now arguably being 4th.

I've no doubt it may get rather tough for Ulster. But looking at whats available they do seem to be one of the better placed teams up until the end of November,

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Post by mikey_dragon Tue 26 Sep 2023, 7:13 pm

I think Bulls have a very impressive squad for the coming season. Their LH and Hooker could easily become first choice for SA. They have big lock forwards - some of who can slot into the back-row and again some of these look like they could be Bok regulars. They need to get shot of Jake White, he doesn’t seem to be threatening silverware enough.

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Post by mikey_dragon Tue 26 Sep 2023, 7:26 pm

Edinburgh’s new coach is John Everett? Sharks got rid of him for not being that good.

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Post by formerly known as Sam Wed 27 Sep 2023, 9:24 am

mikey_dragon wrote:Edinburgh’s new coach is John Everett? Sharks got rid of him for not being that good.

Sean Everett. John Everett was a painter iirc.

He was at the Sharks from 2008 until 2022 so they can't have thought that little of him. Whether he was a good assistant coach and not a great main man could be the question to answer.

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Post by Pete330v2 Wed 27 Sep 2023, 9:40 am

Welshmushroom wrote:
Kingshu wrote:Ulster for the first time in a long time, I'm not optimistic about the season coming beimg better than the season before. Overall squad looks weaker, coaching/tatics (apart from driving maul) have gone backwards, and though they said they aim to use the backs more, there was no change in coaching set up, so Im not full of confidence, and doubt we will see RB, Lowry, Hume etc hit their 2021 form. Think its going to be a very tough season for Ulster. From a few season ago being 2nd best province, to now arguably being 4th.

I've no doubt it may get rather tough for Ulster.  But looking at whats available they do seem to be one of the better placed teams up until the end of November,

I'm about as optimistic as Kingshu, that block of games up until the end of november could very well see Ulster getting only the 2 wins. The Zebre and Lions games being the 2. The others are beyond the capabilities of the version of Ulster that finished last season sadly.

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Post by Welshmushroom Wed 27 Sep 2023, 9:53 pm

I'd be surprised if they only manage 2 wins in the opening rounds. I do see Ulster fans are not expecting much this year but it can't be as bad as what I am expecting from some of the Welsh Teams. I'd also imagine it wont go to well for the Scottish & Italians in the early rounds. I also think Leinster might be on the end of some losses as well. SA sides will probably be very strong.

Should make a interesting watch in the opening block though.

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Post by geoff999rugby Thu 28 Sep 2023, 12:04 pm

Welshmushroom wrote:
Kingshu wrote:Ulster for the first time in a long time, I'm not optimistic about the season coming beimg better than the season before. Overall squad looks weaker, coaching/tatics (apart from driving maul) have gone backwards, and though they said they aim to use the backs more, there was no change in coaching set up, so Im not full of confidence, and doubt we will see RB, Lowry, Hume etc hit their 2021 form. Think its going to be a very tough season for Ulster. From a few season ago being 2nd best province, to now arguably being 4th.

I've no doubt it may get rather tough for Ulster.  But looking at whats available they do seem to be one of the better placed teams up until the end of November,

We start the season with a very poor front row - quite likely no Kitshoff, Herring, Moore and O'Toole
So we have O'Sullivan, Stewart,  Warwick  Bench: Reid, Andrew, Griffin

That's a LH starting at TH, A guy on the bench for TH who is on a development contract and never played top flight rugby
Add to that with no Henderson at the beginning someone will need to wrap O'Connor and Treadwelll in cotton wool because Izzy
is the only cover Lock in the squad.


Our front five will be way too weak at the start.
We will do well to win 3 of the first 6 games.
No way will we be top

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Post by Unclear Thu 28 Sep 2023, 1:33 pm

Is it just me wondering who is going to win all these games if all the teams are so weak post RWC? Hug

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Post by geoff999rugby Thu 28 Sep 2023, 1:44 pm

Also no Stockdale - Ireland injured him Sad


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Post by geoff999rugby Thu 28 Sep 2023, 1:51 pm

Unclear wrote:Is it just me wondering who is going to win all these games if all the teams are so weak post RWC? Hug

Teams with depth whose Nations go out early

Depth - Saffers (except Lions), Leinster, Munster
Early departures - Treviso, Glasgow, Edinburgh


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Post by Pete330v2 Thu 28 Sep 2023, 2:47 pm

geoff999rugby wrote:
Unclear wrote:Is it just me wondering who is going to win all these games if all the teams are so weak post RWC? Hug

Teams with depth whose Nations go out early

Depth - Saffers (except Lions), Leinster, Munster
Early departures - Treviso, Glasgow, Edinburgh


Ireland could be out next week if things implode against a very capable Scottish team.
It's unlikely but hey, it's not impossible.

We still wouldn't get Kitshoff back anytime soon.

Ulster will require fortitude to win 3, are more likely to win 2 but knowing our dismal luck it could be worse.

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Post by Unclear Thu 28 Sep 2023, 7:17 pm

The evidence is in - I have no future in the humour based industries URC Season 23/24 Block 1 1f602

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Post by Welshmushroom Sat 30 Sep 2023, 10:44 am

I am wondering how big a loss Lancaster will be to Leinster this year. It's amazing to think Leinster actually have gone 2 years without silverware.

But I'm really struggling to work out who in that opening block will win the majority of games. Just looking at how many players are missing from the top teams, could Welsh teams actually do quite well in that opening block?

Bulls and Stormers don't have many missing and some good signings so they should be top 4.

I still maintain Ulster will have just enough quality compared to others to make top 4 by R7 - although I will concede they probably wont be there after block 2.

It's very interesting.


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Post by Welshmushroom Sat 30 Sep 2023, 11:35 am

Really be interesting to see as well how the SRU will deal with players rest periods. Even with a early Scotland WC exit will they really get back before R5? I'd imagine not. But if they do that could really give Edinburgh and Glasgow a shot in the arm.

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Post by mikey_dragon Mon 02 Oct 2023, 10:26 am

Dragons and Cardiff won their pre-season games against the other two. At this point in the season it might not be saying a lot. Ospreys seem to be bringing through some youngsters from their academy rather than chase big signings - they could have done with at least one at scrum-half or TH though. They actually recruited a winger too, never thought I'd see the day! Cardiff especially are also relying on academy players and some premiership boys by the look of it. I don't think any Welsh team will be that competitive in the league, we still don't have the squads for it. Scarlets could be the surprise pick to do well, they have good players and coaches.

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Post by Oakdene Mon 02 Oct 2023, 10:54 am

mikey_dragon wrote:Dragons and Cardiff won their pre-season games against the other two. At this point in the season it might not be saying a lot. Ospreys seem to be bringing through some youngsters from their academy rather than chase big signings - they could have done with at least one at scrum-half or TH though. They actually recruited a winger too, never thought I'd see the day! Cardiff especially are also relying on academy players and some premiership boys by the look of it. I don't think any Welsh team will be that competitive in the league, we still don't have the squads for it. Scarlets could be the surprise pick to do well, they have good players and coaches.

I agree Mikey, I think for any of the Welsh sides to do well in the league they will have to almost sacrifice their European campaign.

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Post by EWT Spoons Mon 02 Oct 2023, 11:25 am

For Edinburgh

Whilst we lost, the team seemingly looked decent in the 1st half against Connacht. 2nd half the whole team near enough was rotated out for some youngsters and super 6 lads.

I don’t think we can look to last season as a reflection as to how this season will go, given we’ve changed coach. Not that I have any idea how we’ll go under the new coach.

In terms of players coming back, I think we’ll see the Scottish internationals leave France after this weekend sadly, for those coming back I think the rest period will depend on how much they have played. Healy for example is unlikely to feature against Ireland, so will have only played 1 game in the world cup, same for Crosbie and a few others, so they might not need as much time off as say Darcy or Kinghorn who will have played at least some part in every test. I don't know what that will mean in terms of when they are going to be available, but it would be hard to argue a run out against Romania requires a significant time off post WC.

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Post by Old Man Mon 02 Oct 2023, 12:07 pm

I expect the biggest move from the Sharks this season, new coach John Plumtree should make a big difference, he has coached them before during a period when the Sharks were one of the better teams in Super Rugby.

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Post by mikey_dragon Thu 05 Oct 2023, 1:32 pm

Oakdene wrote:
mikey_dragon wrote:Dragons and Cardiff won their pre-season games against the other two. At this point in the season it might not be saying a lot. Ospreys seem to be bringing through some youngsters from their academy rather than chase big signings - they could have done with at least one at scrum-half or TH though. They actually recruited a winger too, never thought I'd see the day! Cardiff especially are also relying on academy players and some premiership boys by the look of it. I don't think any Welsh team will be that competitive in the league, we still don't have the squads for it. Scarlets could be the surprise pick to do well, they have good players and coaches.

I agree Mikey, I think for any of the Welsh sides to do well in the league they will have to almost sacrifice their European campaign.

Assuming you have re-signed Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies? I thought they were out of contract and didn't see news about them re-signing. They're featuring in the warm-ups. Eddie James looks like a good centre, and you've also got Joe Roberts. Two old 12's and and two young 13's.

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Post by mikey_dragon Thu 05 Oct 2023, 1:34 pm

Old Man wrote:I expect the biggest move from the Sharks this season, new coach John Plumtree should make a big difference, he has coached them before during a period when the Sharks were one of the better teams in Super Rugby.

Sharks and Bulls have amazing squads. I've never seen a team with lock depth like the Bulls have! Big squads too but that includes their currie cup team. I think Stormers will do well again, they have the best coach and backline.

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Post by Old Man Thu 05 Oct 2023, 8:57 pm

Bulls have been disappointing in my view, I think Jake White has lost his mojo. The Stormers has had a bit of luck winning in Season one, Bulls did them a huge favour to eliminate Leinster.

I think the Stormers won't make a final this year, perhaps not even the Semi's agree they have a great coach, love Dobson.

I pin my hopes on the Sharks this season, Plumtree is a coach that understands SA rugby DNA yet has the ability to generate a squad that can play attacking rugby, if the Sharks can get consistent performances together they should be up there.

Lions do the best with what they have. Wish Johan Ackerman can come back to coach them.

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Post by mikey_dragon Thu 05 Oct 2023, 10:16 pm

Agree on Jake White. Bulls will be good at home, not sure about away. Lions have always been decent in the URC, despite not having ‘big names’. They can still produce the players, but it seems they’ve lost a couple as well as their forwards coach. Albert Van Den Berg is mostly the reason why I expect Scarlets to do better this season.

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Post by Welshmushroom Mon 09 Oct 2023, 11:03 am

Well Italy and Scotland now out of the World Cup so that might change rounds 3-7 depending on how soon some of these players are coming back. Few Tier 2 team players coming back to squads as well so doubt any of those will be afforded to much rest going into the URC season.

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Post by Welshmushroom Tue 10 Oct 2023, 8:16 am

Interestingly Dragons have done well in their pre season games against Welsh opposition. Not sure if that means we are good or the others are not doing to well.

Not sure my original list even still holds up at this point. Just one more week before the season starts. Looking forward to it already. Think this year will be another cracker!!!

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Post by TAFKA The Oracle Tue 10 Oct 2023, 10:44 am

Welshmushroom wrote:Interestingly Dragons have done well in their pre season games against Welsh opposition.  Not sure if that means we are good or the others are not doing to well.  

Not sure my original list even still holds up at this point.  Just one more week before the season starts.  Looking forward to it already.  Think this year will be another cracker!!!

Sadly it's probably more to do with the number of players at the World Cup!  We've only got 5 players there (Rowlands, Wainwright, Basham, Dee, Dyer). Lydiate too, but he was not one of our players last year so is not 'missing' as such as we've never had him.  So the disruption is perhaps less for us than for the other welsh regions who have upwards of 8 players missing.

Edit: Forgot the ones with other nations! Bertranou with Argentina.  So 6 or 7 players out.  Hmm.  More comparable absences with the other regions I guess.

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Post by mikey_dragon Tue 10 Oct 2023, 9:45 pm

I wouldn’t read too much into pre-season, but the wins are better than us losing by 50. We’ll still struggle in the set piece with the current lock forwards and the TH cover. Brown or Fairbrother didn’t feature during the pre-season games, I wonder why this is.

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Post by RiscaGame Thu 12 Oct 2023, 7:31 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:I wouldn’t read too much into pre-season, but the wins are better than us losing by 50. We’ll still struggle in the set piece with the current lock forwards and the TH cover. Brown or Fairbrother didn’t feature during the pre-season games, I wonder why this is.

Barrel played against the Scarlets for a bit apparently, but that passed me by. Dai Flan has today said all players are available for Edinburgh, bar Lewis Jones and George Young (and the Welsh squad obviously haha). So that’s good. They’ve been protecting Brown (which is good), but then they’re clearly going to have to ease him into the URC fixtures now.

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Post by Welshmushroom Tue 17 Oct 2023, 5:32 pm

Yeah Dragons have said their WC squad players wont be back till mid November.

So won't see those guys until R5 at the earliest.

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Post by mikey_dragon Tue 17 Oct 2023, 6:42 pm

Not sure if it's a concern or just careful planning that we rested Leon Brown. I'm somewhat expecting him and Griffiths to be injured a lot. I've seen a few others predict us to have a good season. I think we'll have a better season but I'm not that confident.

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Post by Welshmushroom Wed 18 Oct 2023, 10:51 am

I'm not sure we will have a better season. A lot depends on this opening block. Because after that the league will no doubt be even harder than last season. 3 out of 4 SA sides will be stronger again this year. I also expect Edinburgh to be better than they were last year. Connacht with their change of head coach might be a bit shaky but the other 3 Irish sides will be stronger again.

Realistically I can only see us finishing above Zebre and maybe the other 3 welsh regions. We managed 4 wins in the league last year. I really can't see us getting more than 6 wins at most this year.

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Post by Welshmushroom Wed 18 Oct 2023, 11:41 am

On reflection I actually think Bulls could go on a hell of a run in block 1 given the players they have.

Just looking at the SA sides I can see the top 6 being made up of Sharks, Stormers and Bulls. Granted Sharks would need to be much better than last year but I think those 3 sides have better teams available in block 1 than the most of the remaining sides. Sharks still have a nasty away run though.

Would have thought 2 of the remaining 3 top 6 spots must be Irish. Maybe all 3.

The only thing I can be certain about is a Welsh Side won't be in the top 6 after round 7.

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Post by Welshmushroom Tue 05 Dec 2023, 2:37 pm

Well my early prediction was a bit off.

My prediction....
1 Ulster
2 Munster
3 Bulls
4 Glasgow Warriors
5 Stormers
6 Leinster
7 Benetton
8 Cardiff
9 Connacht
10 Sharks
11 Lions
12 Edinburgh
13 Ospreys
14 Dragons
15 Scarlets
16 Zebre

Actual
1.Leinster
2.Glasgow Warriors
3.Bulls
4.Munster
5.Edinburgh
6.Benetton
7.Ulster
8.Connacht
9.Lions
10.Stormers
11.Ospreys
12.Cardiff
13.Scarlets
14.Zebre
15.Sharks
16.Dragons

Major early points I didn't see coming where Sharks and Stormers not starting well. I didnt have Sharks at 15 or Stormers at 10. Also thought Ulster would be higher up but I was warned by fans they didnt think it would go that well.

Shout out to Benetton and Edinburgh who have been fairly decent.

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URC Season 23/24 Block 1 Empty Re: URC Season 23/24 Block 1

Post by mikey_dragon Tue 05 Dec 2023, 3:47 pm

mikey_dragon wrote:Not sure if it's a concern or just careful planning that we rested Leon Brown. I'm somewhat expecting him and Griffiths to be injured a lot. I've seen a few others predict us to have a good season. I think we'll have a better season but I'm not that confident.

Not a better season so far as we had more wins this time last year. The only way is up?

mikey_dragon

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URC Season 23/24 Block 1 Empty Re: URC Season 23/24 Block 1

Post by mikey_dragon Tue 05 Dec 2023, 3:50 pm

Welshmushroom wrote:Well my early prediction was a bit off.  

My prediction....
1 Ulster
2 Munster
3 Bulls
4 Glasgow Warriors
5 Stormers
6 Leinster
7 Benetton
8 Cardiff
9 Connacht
10 Sharks
11 Lions
12 Edinburgh
13 Ospreys
14 Dragons
15 Scarlets
16 Zebre

Actual
1.Leinster
2.Glasgow Warriors
3.Bulls
4.Munster
5.Edinburgh
6.Benetton
7.Ulster
8.Connacht
9.Lions
10.Stormers
11.Ospreys
12.Cardiff
13.Scarlets
14.Zebre
15.Sharks
16.Dragons

Major early points I didn't see coming where Sharks and Stormers not starting well.  I didnt have Sharks at 15 or Stormers at 10.  Also thought Ulster would be higher up but I was warned by fans they didnt think it would go that well.

Shout out to Benetton and Edinburgh who have been fairly decent.  

Sharks are doing terribly, but there is at least one team that is worse… It’s not a good bet to predict Leinster at 6th. When do they not finish 1st? Munster and Glasgow are doing well. Bulls are very good, but it’s clear that South Africans don’t like the cold.

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URC Season 23/24 Block 1 Empty Re: URC Season 23/24 Block 1

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