Ulster Rugby v Zebre

Round 16 will have a lot to live up to after the standards set last weekend across the Guinness PRO14, where we saw some terrific rugby and some very tense finishes. It was the final game of the round between Cardiff Blues and GlasgowWarriors in the Welsh capital that stood out as a contender for the game of the season. It was a game that had a bit of everything including a hat-trick from Aled Summerhill, end-to-end rugby, sensational pieces of individual brilliance and the Blues almost snatched it right at the end having cut a 16-point deficit to just four points. We’ve all heard arguments in the past that club rugby isn’t as good during the international windows but I don’t accept that. Cardiff Blues have some fine young talents making their mark in the Guinness PRO14 with Jarrod Evans, Owen Lane and Harri Millard really showing off their abilities against GlasgowWarriors. The 2015 champions were littered with quality throughout and it is a credit to head coach Dave Rennie’s approach that no matter who pulls on the Warriors jersey, their style of play is always so effective. But it wasn’t the only eye-catching affair of the weekend with Benetton v Scarlets and Connacht v Toyota Cheetahs combining entertainment with tight finishes. The quality on the pitch is a great reminder to our organisation to ensure we’re providing the best tournament possible for our clubs, their players and the fans. It’s worth noting that in the past three years we’ve raised revenues and put more money back into the pockets of our clubs through record levels of sponsorship and broadcast deals. It was very pleasing to read this week that Robbie Henshaw had signed a new contract with Leinster and the IRFU – the significance of this is that it marked the 20th of our 26 squad members from the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour who has either been re-signed or been repatriated to their home union. In Wales not only have a host of top-name players renewed their contracts but we’ve seen Jonathan Davies, George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Ross Moriarty all return to regional rugby and having front-line Test players back in the principality helps grow the interest in the game. As for this weekend, we’ve got three games on Friday night with the rest split across Saturday and Sunday to ensure there’s no direct clashes with the Guinness Six Nations. The competition to reach the Guinness PRO14 Final Series is getting more intense but with just six rounds remaining time is running out. It’s a big weekend for Benetton who will be looking to keep up their terrific run of 23 points from their last six games, while Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues will meet with both teams desperate to keep in touch at the top of their Conferences. There’s no difference for GlasgowWarriors who face Connacht and Munster who travel to Ospreys – every point counts right now so you just can’t take your eyes off the Championship. With so many teams still in contention for the knock-out stages the Guinness PRO14 Final is coming up into view at Celtic Park on May 25. Without even making a tackle you can guarantee your place by going direct to bit.ly/glasgow2019 to get your tickets. The Guinness PRO14 Final has become a great event for supporters of all our clubs and if you fancy treating yourself, or perhaps surprising that passionate rugby fan in your life, then a trip to Celtic Park on May 25 should do the trick! Enjoy the game, Martin Anayi Chief Executive Officer

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