BKT United Rugby Championship kicks off tonight live on Premier Sports

PREMIER SPORTS HOME TO EVERY UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP RIGHT ACROSS THE NEW SEASON

All 151 URC games will be shown by Premier Sports

A new rugby season in the United Rugby Championship kicks off tonight (Fri 16 September) with all seven games throughout opening weekend live on Premier Sports.

Premier Sports, now in its fifth season broadcasting the Championship, will be the only place for rugby fans across the UK and Ireland to see every URC game home and away for all 16 teams in every round throughout the season including the knock-out stages and Grand Final on May 27th 2023.

Premier Sports TV teams will pay special tribute during the weekend to their much-loved and respected colleague rugby commentator Eddie Butler who sadly passed away this week.

URC action kicks off with Glasgow Warriors trip to Benetton tonight (Fri) at the Stadio Monigo as new Glasgow Head Coach Franco Smith faces his former team in the URC curtain-raiser (live on Premier Sports 1 from 5.15pm).

That’s followed by six huge games on Saturday starting with a trio of thrilling afternoon fixtures with Leinster’s trip to Zebre (Premier Sports 1 from 12.55pm), a South African derby as Emirates Lions face Vodacom Bulls (FreeSports from 3pm) and Cardiff hosting Munster in the Welsh capital (Premier Sports 1 from 3pm).

Leinster have won all sixteen of their previous fixtures against Zebre while fellow Irish side Munster have won their last six encounters with Cardiff since the Welshmen’s 37-13 victory at the Arms Park in September 2018,

There’s no let-up in the big game atmosphere on Saturday evening either - as a Welsh derby opens the season in West Wales at Parc y Scarlets with age-old rivals the Scarlets facing the Ospreys in a high intensity Welsh rugby showdown (Premier Sports 1 from 5.05pm).

The Ospreys beat Scarlets 54-36 at Swansea.com Stadium in April to end a four-game losing run to the West Walians but the visitors have lost on their last seven visits to Parc y Scarlets.

The Dragons head to Scotland to take on Edinburgh (Premier Sports 2 from 7pm) and to round off the URC action it’s an inter-pro derby in Belfast as Connacht travel to the Kingspan to face Ulster (Premier Sports 1 from 7.20pm).

Edinburgh have won six of their last eight fixtures against Dragons whilst the visitors most recent success on Edinburgh soil was at BT Murrayfield in March 2012.

The last eight fixtures between Ulster and Connacht have been evenly split with four wins apiece.  Connacht have won just twice in Belfast since 1960 but both of those have been in the last four years, 22-15 in October 2018 and 26-24 in the Rainbow Cup in April 2021. The Kingspan Stadium was a fortress for Ulster in the URC last season. Their win rate at home was 90%, the highest in the Irish shield.

Premier Sports will also bring fans of the TOP14 some great Sunday night action as Toulon host Clermont in the third round of the France’s top flight club rugby (Premier Sports 1 from 8pm).

It’s a star-studded line-up in the Premier Sports team bringing rugby supporters every second of live URC action this weekend: 

  • Benetton v Glasgow Warriors: Graham Little, Stephen Ferris, John Barclay, Bob Skinstad, Rory Hamilton
  • Zebre v Leinster: Michael Bradley, Jamie Lyall
  • Cardiff v Munster: Ross Harries, Tom Shanklin, Alan Quinlan, Jack Zorab
  • Scarlets v Ospreys: Ross Harries, Steff Hughes, Tom Shanklin, Rhys Ap William, Lauren Jenkins
  • Edinburgh v Dragons: Emma Dodds, Chris Paterson, Bob Skinstad, Rory Hamilton
  • Ulster v Connacht: Graham Little, Stephen Ferris, Luke Fitzgerald, Andrew Trimble, Ryle Nugent, Paul Marshall

There are eight live rugby games right across the weekend to tune into on Premier Sports:

  • Fri 16 Sept Benetton v Glasgow Warriors URC: Live on Premier Sports 1 from 5.15pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Zebre Parma v Leinster URC: Live on Premier Sports 1 from 12.55pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Emirates Lions v Vodacom Bulls URC: Live on FreeSports from 3pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Cardiff Rugby v Munster URC: Live on Premier Sports 1 from 3.05pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Scarlets v Ospreys URC: Live on Premier Sports 1 from 5.05pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Edinburgh v Dragons URC: Live on Premier Sports 2 from 7pm
  • Sat 17 Sept Ulster v Connacht URC: Live on Premier Sports 1 from 7.20pm
  • Sun 18 Sept Toulon v Clermont TOP14: live on Premier Sports 1 from 8pm

 

Premier Sports leading pundits have been looking ahead a new season of thrilling URC action.

Chris Paterson said: “Getting both Scottish teams into the top eight was a win. It a good success when you see the standard of the competition.

“It would be great if they can improve on that this season but it will be more difficult. The South African teams will be fully loaded for longer, there will be the competitive element from the Irish teams as always, the Welsh teams have to improve on last season and I think the Scottish teams will improve as well.

“Edinburgh had the fourth best attack but were 13th in defence last season which is something to look at. That element of surprise they had last year won’t be so much this season – they will have to evolve and add layers to their game.

“Glasgow Warriors had the 9th best attack scoring 55 tries last year -  they will be looking for a really clear identity of what suits them best and define the Warriors identity is that will make them successful.”

“It has to be a target of top eight for the Scottish teams. You want to get off to a good start but it’s how you manage it if you don’t and not being overly reactive to early season form.

“In some ways the knock out stages take care of themselves – you have a more settled team, more time, you know where you are. The real hard work, the slog is up to the final round of fixtures – it’s really hard looking at the opposition that’s there.

“To break into that top eight is really hard - It’s a tough, tough gig.”


John Barclay said: “I’m really intrigued to see how Glasgow go. It’s too easy to panic and say last season it’s a disaster and then there’s headline-grabbing stuff. Actually they have a good core squad that have been there a while, it’s quite a settled squad - for me it’s just about a bit more maturity through the season. They have a new coach and they are working hard – they just need to figure out what their identity is.

“Edinburgh were good last year, it’s about evolution. For me they were a little bit loose and careless with the ball at times but Mike will know that and will be disappointed about it.  There’s lots to be positive about in Scottish rugby in the URC this season - but a game hasn’t been played yet!”

Tom Shanklin said: “The Welsh clubs have to start big. The first block from September to November has to be a time where you get some wins on the board and momentum. Everything has to be put into it and I think there's a lot of players coming back and good players that are fit. At the Ospreys with Gareth Anscombe, we hardly saw him feature last year but then we’ve seen him essentially win a test for Wales in South Africa.  Superstars like George North and Justin Tipuric had been injured for large parts of season all of a sudden that they're coming back into fitness.  So I think that the Scottish teams will be fearful you know if the Welsh teams to do hit a bit of form, then they can be very dangerous”

“You need your best teams out there. This can't be a time to start looking for combinations. Whatever the coach thinks is the best team, they have to start big because after that first block of games and you might have one win, you might have no wins - and all of a sudden the league starts to take shape and you start to lose confidence. Then it's just a downward spiral as we saw last season.

“We can't have the same as last year in positions 9, 10, 14 and 15. Wales are a far better country at rugby than that. I don't think it's a true reflection of some of the quality Wales have got in the regions when everyone's fit. But it's crazy how big a part confidence and rugby mentality plays in the head because look at the Dragons without a home game win. No one would have said that at the start of the season. No-one. It's difficult to play quality rugby when there's a huge lack of confidence.

“A Welsh derby is a brilliant way to start the season – but sadly one Welsh team will lose this weekend. For fans it’s what they really want to see and it’s important to get a buzz at the start of the season. There will be two teams desperate to win.  You've got to start big. The way the fixtures unfold there's not many easy games in this league. And we've seen that with Benetton and Zebre improving - you can't take those games for granted anymore.

“So it's a huge game for Scarlets and Ospreys. Two teams who play completely different rugby Ospreys are a little bit more pragmatic, a little bit more physical. The Scarlets play with a massive amount of tempo and width and it's just whoever really can do the basics well. It’s always tough at the start to try and find momentum and they may be coming in slightly undercooked having lost out on a pre-season game. But the weather looks good, I think we will see a great game on Saturday.”