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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 2 September, 2014

Nine reasons to look forward to the Pro12 action this weekend

See, Simon can’t wait either.

Image: INPHO

DING DING DING! It’s time for round two.

Yes, after a week of high-stakes poker played out in press releases and a Westbury Hotel board room, we can ice this ugly money-fueled talk and get back to enjoying real-life, mud, tape and blood rugby.

Crouch. Bind… crooked feed.

Here’s why we can’t wait for seven o’clock to come.

Matt Healy v Alex Cuthbert

The westerners’ winger provided the highlight of the opening day win against Zebre with a classic outside-gas try in the corner.

Tonight, his direct opponent in Cardiff will be the much more Adonis-like figure of the Wales and Lions winger.

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That’s him to Adam Jones’ left in the picture.. David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

JJ Hanrahan is starting against Zebre

It’s almost 11 months since he won his first senior man-of-the-match award.



YouTube credit: capavrugby

Connacht’s captains

When Pat Lam couldn’t whittle his leaders below three, we knew one man would have to stand above the rest.

Michael Swift, John Muldoon and Gavin Duffy are all in Connacht’s starting line-up tonight, but Swift is the biggest of the big dogs. But sure we knew that anyway*.

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©INPHO/James Crombie

*Pfft second captain, first captain whatever. We do, of course expect Duffy to take captaincy duties in a match where he’s been fast-tracked back from a broken jaw.

Ian Nagle v Marco Bortolami

Munster’s lauded next-gen second row is making steady progress towards fulfilling the expectations he created for himself in the win over Australia.

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©INPHO/Francesca Soli

Tonight, away from home, he’ll square up to one of the league’s grizzled old characters. Bortolami and Zebre want a win – bad – so Nagle will have to dig deep too keep Munster’s feelgood summer rolling on.

Mads magic?

Leinster haven’t named their team at the time of publishing, but we fully expect Ian Madigan to take time out from throwing balls at… well, balls to take over the number 10 shirt from Jonathan Sexton.

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©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Jimmy Gopperth may be proving doubters wrong – instigating flowing attacks on top of expertly managing his new club through the 80 minutes – but there is no doubt who the Grandstand in Ballsbridge want to see calling the shots.

You might see more of Felix Jones than you expected… or wanted

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©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster v Ospreys

There’s a very valid case for calling Glasgow’s trip to Ulster the game of the weekend, but tomorrow night will bring a repeat of the 2010 and 2012 league finals. There’s something about the RDS that really does bring out the best in the Ospreys.

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©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

These are never games to be missed and, although Leinster fans will nod to a bonus point win at the tail end of last season, that was just their second victory in eight against Neath-Swansea’s finest (and was delivered by an Andrew Conway hat-trick).

Nick Williams is back and we hear he’s itching to get an audacious offload away

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©INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

It’s your first chance to see Stuart Hogg since this happened

If you struggle to recognise him with his clothes on, he’ll be the one with ’15′ on his back in Ravenhill.

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Fixtures

Tonight

19.05: Cardiff v Connacht
19.05: Ulster v Glasgow

19.30: Zebre v Munster

19.45: Edinburgh v Dragons.

Saturday

18.15: Leinster v Ospreys
18.30: Llanelli v Treviso

This way to see the provincial team-sheets for this weekend’s Pro12 action

Preview: All Blacks braced for tough Springbok Test

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