As the Guinness Pro-14 goes into a two weekend break as the European teams take part in the Champions and Challenge Cup, it is worth looking at the Conferences and how the teams are doing.
There is no surprise that Leinster are leading the way in Conference B, while the South African sides are propping up both conferences. This may be mitigated by having played only two matches at home so far. Now that most teams have had three home and three away matches (Connacht and Scarlets having played four), the conferences are beginning to take shape.
In Conference A, 2016 champions, Glasgow lead the way and they would have been unbeaten if they hadn’t fallen to a surprise defeat in SA to the Kings (only their second of the tournament), where they didn’t even achieve a losing bonus. The loss of Stuart Hogg for the foreseeable future, will be hard for them, but at least they have got the points on the board early, similar to last year. The remainder of the positions are tight with 2ndto 5thcovered by two points. It is early in the season, and Munster will get a head of steam up. They as always have a strong squad and will benefit from the Autumn Internationals and 6 Nation periods pf the season. So as it stands, I see the third playoff position being between Ospreys and Connacht, though the Cheetahs will gain greater strength in depth after the Currie Cup finishes and they have a run of home fixtures.
As for Conference B, Leinster are clearly the class act of the Conference (and League) and will comfortably win the Conference, especially as they have the squad depth similar to Munster that will assist them in International windows. As for the rest it is any two from four, with three points separating the quartet. with only the Southern Kings and the Dragons not going to be aiming for a playoff position. The surprise has been Benetton, who have an away to their name and probably should have had one against Edinburgh outscoring the hosts five tries to four, but being let down in the conversion stats. This has really put the cat among the pigeons. It shows how quickly the conferences change. Edinburgh were last after four games, they are now fourth, only there on points differential.
If I was to suggest the Playoffs a quarter of the way through the season, I’d go for Leinster and Glasgow with home semi-finals, with Edinburgh and Scarlets in the QF positions, but which way round it is hard to say. In Conference A, It’ll be Munster with the home QF and the Ospreys travelling to the Conference B runners up.