Rugby

URC competition driving test performances

23 Th11 2021 | 10:12

Competition within the United Rugby Championship (URC) has been instrumental in driving the strong test performances of Ireland, Scotland and Wales during the November internationals.

Leinster midfielder Robbie Henshaw believes the high level of competition that the championship has produced thus far has been a massive influence in the momentum that Ireland in particular have produced.

The Irish followed up their win over New Zealand with a 53-7 thrashing of Argentina on Sunday as all the Northern Hemisphere sides finished on a very strong note.

“It is a huge driver for performance within the squad, certainly for me personally; you need competition there to keep you on your toes and keep you trying to stay ahead,” Henshaw said after the victory.

“Definitely the talent we have in the squad is huge and it’s an exciting time for us.”

This comes after Munster’s Joey Carbury produced a great performance to score 18 points, while Josh van der Flier crossed twice for Ireland and is set to return to Leinster to continue their unbeaten run in the competition.

Henshaw believes the standard produced by Ireland against the All Blacks was within their grasp on a more regular basis.

“That’s the standard we can produce when we’re on. I think that’s the expectation from us as players, that we’re expected to play like that every time we take the field, and the coaches expect us to play like that every time.

“Things aren’t perfect all the time, but the last two weeks have been unbelievable, really clinical and accurate.

“The camp is good, two really good performances back-to-back so, I suppose, there’s big pressure on us now to make it three in a row and three really good performances.”

The Irish clubs that have dominated performances have some different challenges this week as round six resumes for the URC.

Leinster host Ulster in a massive derby game, with the Northern Irish side likely to be boosted by the arrival of their big signing in Duane Vermeulen, even though he may not play.

Munster already signalled their intent to take a younger side without their test stars down to South Africa where they face a highveld challenge at Johann van Graan’s old home of Loftus Versfeld.

While it is a younger side, it is still filled with talent as they try and negotiate a tough trip before returning home to Champions Cup action.

Cardiff will meanwhile be boosted by the addition of Rhys Priestland and two other Welsh internationals who flew out later after 29 players left earlier to head to South Africa.

Wales internationals Kirby Myhill, Ben Thomas and Owen Lane are in the travelling party, while Priestland, Rhys Carre and Shane Lewis-Highes will arrive on Monday at the team’s base in Cape Town.

The squad, which includes club captain Josh Turnbull contains 14 players who have been capped by Wales but James Botham who had been targeting a return to action following shoulder surgery has been ruled out with a foot injury.

Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Willis Halaholo and Josh Adams have not been included and will instead prepare for Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup.

The other two games for South African sides will see the Cell C Sharks host Scarlets and Zebre Parma head to Cape Town to face the DHL Stormers.

THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES

Friday

Connacht v Ospreys (kick off 20.35)

Saturday

DHL Stormers v Zebre Parma (15.00)

Benetton v Glasgow Warriors (15.00)

Cell C Sharks v Scarlets (17.30)

Dragons v Edinburgh (19.15)

Vodacom Bulls v Munster (19.45)

Leinster v Ulster (22.00)

Sunday

Emirates Lions v Cardiff (16.00)