British & Irish Cup Round 3 preview
Four RFU Championship sides hold a perfect record going into Round 3 of the British & Irish Cup.
Bedford Blues, Cornish Pirates, Newcastle Falcons and Moseley have all taken the maximum 10 points on offer from their first two games.
Of the quartet only Pool 3 pacesetters Pirates are at home in the next round, as they welcome Swansea to the Mennaye Field.
It will be the fifth time the sides have met in Cornwall, with the Pirates yet to beat the ‘All Whites’.
Indeed, in the four fixtures played between 1946 and 1955, the Welsh side scored 58 points ‘for’ and only three ‘against’. Swansea were victorious again, 64-10, when they played a ‘Pirates President’s XV’ in April 1989.
2010 champions Pirates kicked off their campaign with a win away at Dundee followed by a home success against Carmarthen.
Neath and Bedford were fairly regular opponents in an all-conquering period for Welsh rugby, playing each other 11 times from 1971 to 1983. The ‘Welsh All Blacks’ won 20-11 in the first fixture at the Gnoll in January 1971.
The last meeting, and the 12th in total, came in this competition in January 2011 and ended in a 13-6 victory for the Blues. The overall head-to-head record stands at six wins apiece.
Pool 2 leaders Bedford go into the tie on the back of big wins over Stirling and Bedwas.
Newcastle suffered a 53-17 hammering in the Heineken Cup at Rodney Parade the last time they played Newport, the club side as opposed to the regional outfit, in January 2002.
The Falcons sent down a weakened outfit to east Wales on that occasion as they had only just played Leinster in a rearranged tie the Tuesday before and, like Newport, had no hope of qualifying for the latter stages.
That is anything but the case this weekend when the two sides clash again in the B&I Cup at Rodney Parade. The Black & Ambers have also won both their opening games, albeit without bonus points, and a highly competitive affair is anticipated.
Impressive wins over London Scottish and Llanelli have put Moseley in pole position to qualify from Pool 6. On Saturday they play Gala in the Scottish Borders. Gala are second in Scotland’s top division following a narrow defeat to new leaders Ayr in last weekend’s top-of-the-table clash.
Two other English sides top the standings in their respective pools. Bristol lead the way in Pool 1 with two wins from two to take eight points from their games against Ulster Ravens and Cardiff. Bristol are away to Bridgend in Round 3. Rotherham have taken nine points from a possible ten and lead Pool 7 by one point from Munster A after victories over Plymouth and Aberavon. The Titans welcome the Irishmen to Clifton Lane on Saturday.
Pool 5 is shaping up to be the most competitive of groups with three sides – Leinster A, Jersey and Pontypridd - level on six points apiece. Jersey welcome Leinster to St Peter on Saturday.
Llandovery are currently flying the flag for Wales in this season’s B&I Cup. The Welsh side top Pool 8 by three points from Doncaster, the visitors to Church Bank on Saturday.
Of the remaining RFU Championship sides, Nottingham, Leeds Carnegie, Plymouth Albion and London Scottish have yet to register a win.
Friday December 7
Nottingham v Melrose, KO 19.45
Saturday December 8
Bridgend v Bristol, KO 14.30
Ulster Ravens v Cardiff, KO 14.30
Neath v Bedford Blues, KO 14.30
Stirling v Bedwas, KO 15.00
Carmarthen v Dundee, KO 14.30
Cross Keys v Connacht Eagles, KO 14.00
Newport v Newcastle Falcons, KO 14.30
Jersey v Leinster A, KO 15.00
Gala v Moseley, KO 15.00
Rotherham Titans v Munster A, KO 14.00
Aberavon v Plymouth Albion, KO 14.30
Llandovery v Doncaster Knights, KO 15.00
Sunday December 9
Cornish Pirates v Swansea, KO 14.00
Leeds Carnegie v Pontypridd, KO 15.00
London Scottish v Llanelli, KO 14.00