The New Year’s Day 2022 edition of the United Rugby Championship is having the same issues that have plagued the 2021 competition. The Covid-19 pandemic has already caused the cancellation of the matches that would have seen Dragons vs Cardiff, Ulster vs Leinster, and Edinburgh vs Glasgow. The result is a continued piling up of matches that will need to be slotted into the calendar at some point in the future, something that is looking more difficult by the week.
There are, however, still games remaining on the schedule as of Thursday night. Here is a look at some of the ones the matches that are still planning on going ahead.
Connacht VS Munster – Galway Sportsgrounds, Galway
The one Irish derby that has survived to date – and one that both provinces are hopeful about playing given there have been no new Covid cases in the camps – sees Munster traveling to Galway to take on Connacht.
This will be the first action for Munster in the URC for 10 weeks after their fixture list was torn apart by Covid. They are, however, in good form, with Johann van Graan’s side having won two from two in the European Champions Cup this month with victories over Wasps and Castres. They are also four from five in the URC, 10 points off of leaders Leinster but with a pair of games in hand. Connacht is one place below Munster with three wins from their seven games to date.
The big injury news is in the visitor’s camp where first-five Jack Carty is struggling to recover from the foot injury he picked up in the province’s Champions Cup defeat at the hands of the Leicester Tigers. Carty is integral to everything that Connacht does and they are not the same team without him on the park. He has started every one of the province’s games this season and scored 13 of their 18 points when they last played Munster.
Munster has no new injuries to worry about – something that makes sense given their lack of matches – with just long-term absentees such as Joey Carbery and RG Snyman still on the sidelines. The line is Munster -3.5 and I like them to win and cover after getting off to a slower start. They will grind Connacht down over the course of 80 minutes.
Scarlets VS Ospreys – Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli
Scarlets are another team that hasn’t played competitive rugby for a long time thanks to Covid postponements. Their last match was back on October 22. It would be no shock at all if this one was a slow, tight affair with the two teams both trying to find some form as the contest goes on given just a general lack of game time and preparation. This will only be increased by the fan restrictions that are in place, something that will work to the favor of Ospreys as it will be a quiet Parc Y Scarlets on New Year’s Day.
Wait to check the team news to see if any of the important players have fallen foul of Covid testing on this one. I like the hosts to win a close – and possibly boring encounter – but that line of -5.5 for the Scarlets is one I would probably avoid as I do expect it to be very, very tight.