Well folks it has come to this, the final weekend of the domestic 2016-2017 in rugby competitions. We have already seen Saracens take the European Champions Cup for the second year in a row at BT Murrayfield a fortnight ago. Last weekend however, they failed to win the double, losing in the first Aviva Premiership semi-final to the Exeter Chiefs right at the very death at Sandy Park a week ago. Leicester in a topsy
-turvy season have had 3 coaches, a huge list of injured players and personal tragedy to Captain Tom Youngs, who received the news his wife had terminal cancer. They have done an incredible job to reach the semi-finals and have the chance to play at the Ricoh Arena. However, home advantage once again proved crucial with Josh Bassett’s try in the last 5 minutes of the game propelling Wasps to a premiership final, nearly a decade since their last visit to Twickenham.
Across the emerald pond, semi-finals were happening in the Guinness Pro 12, a battle against Welsh and Irish. Muntser were too dominant at Thomond Park with their emotionally charged drive to win the competition for their former coach Anthony Foley who died back in the Autumn of last year. Ospreys have themselves to blame as they did not take advantage of huge holes in the Munster defense and they also had two tries disallowed. The biggest story of last weekend however,
was the Scarlets winning their semi-final against Leinster. Not only was it the first time the Scarlets had beaten Leinster at the RDS in Dublin for 10 years, the Scarlets are the first ever side in the competition to win a semi-final away from their home ground, quite simply remarkable. And as if the events of tomorrow aren’t enough for the die-hard rugby fans, there is also the start of the Barbarians tour, with their first match against England at Twickenham on Sunday. So, what will happen in the three games to come?
Aviva Premiership Final: Exeter Chiefs vs Wasps, 2:30pm, Saturday 27th May, Twickenham, London
Both teams have been magnificent during this season, the Exeter Chiefs grabbing 8 bonus points in their last 8 wins before winning against the current Aviva Premiership Champions Saracens at Sandy Park last week. Wasps have had a stellar season too, grabbing nearly all of the awards at the Aviva Premiership Awards nearly two weeks ago. Both sets of packs are incredibly co
mpetitive but Wasps just seem to have that extra something in their star-studded backline with the likes of Jimmy Goppeth (Aviva Premiership Player of the Year and Winner of the Golden Boot), Elliot Daly, Kurtley Beale (the final being his last game for the club before he heads back to Australia to play for the New South Wales Warratahs) and Willie Le Roux. I expect Wasps to beat Exeter Chiefs by 5 points or less.
Guinness Pro 12 Final: Scarlets vs Munster, 6:15pm Saturday 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin
A classic ying and yang match, Munster’s forwards against the Scarlets backs. Although having said this, Munster’s backline with Connor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo have been inspiring. The Scarlets with the likes of Hadley Parks, Scott Williams, Jonathon and James Davies, Liam Williams, Steffan Evans and Ken Owens have also been outstanding. Given the location of the fixture and with the raw passion Munster will have on the day, I predict Munster to win at the Aviva Stadium by less than 5 points.
England vs Barbarians, 3pm Sunday 28th May, Twickenham, London
England will treat Vern Cotter’s Barbarian’s with a lot of respect, however, Eddie Jones will be treating this game as a warm up to the summer tour England have down in Argentina. Eddie Jones will be missing exciting young prospects, Harlequin’s Joe Marchant, due to a toe injury, and Northampton’s Paul Hill with a neck issue. The side Jones has selected is a blend of experience in the form of Harlequins’ Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown, and a lot of young uncapped talent such as the likes of Josh Beaumont (Bill Beaumont’s son), Sam James, Ross Harrison, Ben Curry and Mike Haley from Sale Sharks, and Nick Isiekwe and Nathan Earle from Saracens. Cotter has seemed to put out his strongest starting XV with the like Theirry Dusautoir (retiring from Toulouse this season), Facundo Isa (Jagures and Argentine back row) and Adam Ashley-Copper (former Australian winger). This should be a fire cracker of a fixture at the home of English rugby, hopefully lots of tries scored and no further injuries for Eddie Jones to worry about. I expect England to win but only by 10 points or less.
Morgan, along with Oli Lathorpe and Will Wright, will release another podcast soon with reaction to all of the rugby this coming weekend and a look at the start of the British and Irish Lions Tour in New Zealand. The Lions’ first fixture is against the New Zealand Babarians Provincial Team on 3rd June 2017 at 9am.