Guinness Six Nations stars set for huge weekend as domestic rugby edges towards finales

Joey Carbery 27/2/2022
As the United Rugby Championship heads to the quarter-finals this weekend, there are plenty of Guinness Six Nations stars in action across all four games.

As the United Rugby Championship heads to the quarter-finals this weekend, there are plenty of Guinness Six Nations stars in action across all four games.

While one game sees Bulls face Sharks in an all-South African affair, the three other games see some key battles between some of the Championship’s very best.

Provincial bragging rights at stake

The weekend’s action kicks off in Belfast as Ulster take on Munster in an all-Ireland affair.

Munster were victorious at Thomond Park back in January, as they edged a tight game 18-13 before completing the double in April with a 24-17 win at the Kingspan Stadium.

Keith Earls and Joey Carbery were in the points for Munster last time in Belfast and the Ireland internationals will be hoping to repeat their feat on Friday evening.

Ulster are without Michael Lowry, with one of the breakout stars from the 2022 Guinness Six Nations sidelined with injury meaning there will be no face off at fly-half between Lowry and Joey Carberry.

Leinster looking to bounce back

There was disappointment for Leinster last weekend as they lost out to La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup.

Leo Cullen’s side will be hoping for a response as they welcome Glasgow Warriors to Dublin in their quarter-final on Saturday.

It will be a battle of the scrum halves as Ireland’s Jamison Gibson-Park takes on Scotland’s Ali Price, while there is also a Guinness Six Nations battle up top as Zander Fagerson looks to stop Ireland trio Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, and Tadhg Furlong.

The two sides met just once in the regular season, with Leinster coming out 31-15 victors, and Glasgow will be hoping for a better showing at the RDS Arena on Saturday.

Edinburgh travelling south in search of victory

The final game of the weekend sees Edinburgh travel to South Africa to face Stormers in Cape Town.

Stormers finished the regular season in second place, seven points better off than their opponents, and will be looking to go one better than their 20-20 draw in Scotland in October.

Darcy Graham scored a try early on in that game, and the Scotland winger will once again be key for Mike Blair’s side if they are to progress to the semi-finals.

Graham scored two tries in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations and will hope to be on the scoresheet again alongside fellow Scotland internationals Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson, and Blair Kinghorn.

Race for the top four in the Premiership

The United Rugby Championship isn’t the only domestic rugby edging towards its conclusion with Gallagher Premiership hosting its final weekend of fixtures before the semi-finals.

The final place in the top four is on the line, with Northampton Saints and Gloucester Rugby battling it out for just one spot.

Saints face Newcastle Falcons, and will be hoping that Wales’ Dan Biggar and England’s Courtney Lawes can power them to victory.

Elsewhere, Gloucester must overcome second-placed Saracens, with Scotland’s Adam Hastings and Wales’ Louis Rees-Zammit their biggest threats in attack.

However, they’ll have to get past a Saracens side that boasts international stars of its own in the form of Max Malins who is the league’s joint-top try scorer.

Clubs looking to end on a high

The action doesn’t end there in the Premiership either, with six more ties for fans to enjoy on Saturday.

Exeter Chiefs host Harlequins, with Chiefs’ attack led by Scotland’s Stuart Hogg and England winger Jack Nowell while Quins will hope England forwards Joe Marler and Alex Dombrandt can stop them in their tracks and leave plenty of space for half-back duo Danny Care and Marcus Smith.

Leaders Leicester Tigers host Wasps knowing a win will secure them first place at the end of the regular season.

England players are scattered across the Tigers’ starting XV, with Freddie Steward, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum all in action against a Wasps side led by Joe Launchbury.

The final two games see Sale Sharks take on Bristol Bears, with Tom Curry in action for Sale against compatriot Harry Randall and Wales’ Callum Sheedy, while Duhan van der Merwe will line up for Worcester Warriors s they take on a Bath side boasting Charlie Ewels, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Cokanasiga, Sam Underhill, and Taulupe Faletau.

Frenetic finish in France

This Sunday also sees the final weekend of the Top 14 before play-offs.

The race to finish in the top six with just four points separating fourth-placed La Rochelle and eighth-placed Clermont.

La Rochelle, fresh off the back of their European Champions Cup victory, will hope Gregory Alldritt and Jonathan Danty, two key cogs in France’s Grand Slam win, can get them over the line against European Challenge Cup winners Lyon.

The other key game sees Racing 92 host Toulon with the sides separated by just two points.

Gael Fickou is the stand out Guinness Six Nations star for Racing, while Toulon will turn to winger Gabin Villière.

Montpellier currently sit top of the table and face ninth-placed Clermont knowing a victory will keep them at the summit.

Les Cistes will hope to call on Grand Slam-winning second row Paul Willemse in order to stave off the challenge of Bordeaux who face an away trip to Perpignan.

Les Girondins are just one point off the summit and will look to France’s Cameron Woki and Mathieu Jalibert to spearhead their attack against a Melvyn Jaminet inspired Perpignan who are looking to escape the relegation play-off.

The final games see third-placed Castres face Pau in the knowledge that a win will confirm their top six place, while Toulouse are still in with a shout if they can secure victory over bottom side Biarritz.

Les rouge et noir will hope their suite of Grand Slam winners such as Cyril Baile and Antoine Dupont can book them a play-off spot.