URC preview: guide to the teams Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors will face
The United Rugby Championship kicks off on Friday. Here’s how Edinburgh and Glasgow’s rivals are shaping up:
Head coach: Marco Bortolami
Last season: 13th
Star player: Michele Lamaro, flanker who captained Italy to stunning Six Nations win over Wales.
Never threatened to make the URC play-offs last season but still claimed the scalps of Edinburgh and Glasgow at home. Big turnover of players over the summer and the new recruits include Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, the former Scotland scrum-half.
Director of rugby: Jake White
Last season: 4th, lost in final
Star player: Johan Goosen, stand-off who is recovering from a serious knee injury.
Strong finish after sticky start and their semi-final win over Leinster in Dublin was arguably the most impressive result of the season. Edged out in the final by the Stormers in Cape Town but likely to be serious challengers once more.
Director of rugby: Dai Young
Last season: 14th
Star player: Josh Navidi, Wales and Lions back row who Cardiff will be praying stays fit.
It was a grim season for Welsh rugby in general and Cardiff in particular. Only Zebre conceded more tries in the URC. The addition of Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams will make them a more durable prospect.
Head coach: Andy Friend
Last season: 11th
Star player: Bundee Aki, formidable centre.
The only Irish province not to make the play-offs, but still have a core of Ireland internationals. Have signed one-time Scotland hooker Grant Stewart following his release by Glasgow.
Head coach: Dai Flanagan
Last season: 15th
Star player: JJ Hanrahan, Irish stand-off has been signed from Clermont.
A change at the top with Dean Ryan moving up to director of rugby and Flanagan arriving from Scarlets to replace him as head coach. Big changes in the squad, too, including the recruitment of Hanrahan.
Head coach: Leo Cullen
Last season: 1st, lost in semis
Star player: Ross Byrne was their main man in the URC.
Finished top of the pile in the regular season but edged out at home by Stormers in semis after that thrashing of Glasgow in the last eight. Losing the Euro final to La Rochelle meant they ended up empty-handed and will be determined to make amends.
Head coach: Ivan van Rooyen
Last season: 12th
Star player: Andries Coetzee. Ex-Boks full-back has returned from Benetton.
Proud club but were poor relations of South African rugby in inaugural URC, although still managed to beat Edinburgh and Munster at Ellis Park.
Head coach: Graham Rowntree
Last season: 6th, lost in quarters
Star player: Peter O’Mahony is their beating heart.
All change at Munster, with forwards coach and ex-England prop Rowntree stepping up to replace Bath-bound Johann Van Graan. Quarter-final defeat to Ulster in Belfast was a bitter pill for a side who have not won the title since 2011.
Head coach: Toby Booth
Last season: 9th
Star player: Return of Justin Tipuric after long-term injury should be huge boost.
Best of the Welsh but not good enough to make the play-offs. Won five of their six derbies to take the Welsh Shield and qualify for this season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Head coach: Dwayne Peel
Last season: 10th
Star player: Tongan prop Sam Lousi is key.
Gareth Williams is new defence coach as Scarlets look to claw back the form that saw them crowned Pro12 champions in 2017. Losing Liam Williams to Cardiff won’t help.
Director of rugby: Neil Powell
Last season: 5th, lost in quarters
Star player: Makazole Mapimpi, prolific winger for club and country.
A narrow defeat in the last eight to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld was scant return for a squad stuffed with talent. Powell arrives from South Africa’s sevens side to shake things up.
Head coach: John Dobson
Last season: 2nd, won final
Star player: Evan Roos. The No 8 was the URC’s player of the season.
Went from financial uncertainty to inaugural URC champions, beating Edinburgh in the quarter-finals, Ulster in the semis and Bulls in the final on home turf in Cape Town. Roos was outstanding throughout.
Head coach: Dan McFarland
Last season: 3rd, lost in semis
Star player: Iain Henderson is a rock in the second row.
Ulster were highly impressive, beating Edinburgh at the DAM, then knocking Munster out in the play-offs before losing by two points to eventual winners Stormers in the semis in Cape Town. Expect them to challenge again.
Head coach: Fabio Roselli
Last season: 16th
Star player: Alessandro Fusco is a scrum-half of some promise.
Only one win last season and ex-Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley was replaced in April by Roselli. Hard to see how he can turn it around.
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