• Colourful international flavour to the rugby weekend with world-class club rugby action showcasing France, Italy and South Africa
  • Shane Williams says “expect the unexpected” in North v South rugby on Saturday in Treviso

THREE BIG RUGBY showdowns will be brought live to rugby supporters across the UK and Ireland this weekend by Premier Sports as the Rainbow Cup Champion is crowned and the finalists for France’s high profile and prestigious TOP 14 final are decided.

Will it be glory for Northern or Southern Hemisphere Rugby in the finale of the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup as two confident teams go head-to-head in Italy; with Benetton Rugby at home taking on the mighty South African ‘super’ side Vodacom Bulls (live on Premier Sports 1 from 4.30pm)

In France, La Rochelle face Racing 92 on Friday evening in the first of TOP 14’s semi-finals (live on Premier Sports 1 and FreeSports from 7.40pm) – a contest where two sides with contrasting styles go head-to-head. La Rochelle pride themselves on their physicality and set piece with the power of Will Skelton and Levani Botia to provide the climate for their attacking players to flourish; whereas Racing will opt for quick, attacking rugby to suit the exciting players they have like Finn Russell, Kurtley Beale, Simon Zebo - who love to play with ball-in-hand.

On Saturday, TOP 14 high flyers Toulouse welcome Bordeaux (live on Premier Sports 1 and FreeSports from 7.40pm) with the home side hoping their clutch of young stars, such as Julien Marchand, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont and Matthis Lebel will continue to shine and add another Bouclier de Bennus trophy victory to add to the club’s distinguished heritage. They welcome Bordeaux to the Stade Ernst-Wallon this weekend having won their last four games against the visitors buoyed by the skill of Matthieu Jalibert after he scored 20 of the 25 points his side needed to beat Clermont last week to reach the semi-final.

The showcase of rugby from three big rugby nations this weekend provides an international dimension to Premier Sports’ rugby coverage this weekend and follows on from the big announcement from PRO14 this week that we bid farewell to the PRO14 as we know it. Next season the competition is transformed into the United Rugby Championship as South Africa’s four Super teams Vodacom Bulls, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions join.

The URC brings a new high impact new single league format, with the added competition of four regional pools within it, delivers more knock-out rugby, greater jeopardy and drama for rugby supporters and a tournament where every game will count.  And Saturday’s Rainbow Cup final from Stadio di Monigo in Treviso will be an opening glance and taster of how exciting this new cross hemisphere tournament will be - starting in late September 2021.

Welsh rugby try scoring legend Shane Williams is part of the Premier Sports team bringing rugby fans all the action live on Saturday afternoon from the Rainbow Cup Final in Italy alongside Ross Harries, Stephen Ferris, Bob Skinstad and Rory Hamilton.

Shane Williams said: “I take my hat off to Benetton – they’ve done the business fair play to them. It’s been a great story to see them take this Rainbow Cup on as it had been quite a dire season for them up to that point, but they’ve turned it around with some really good results. Yes, they avoided a few good teams, but at the same time you have to take your games and your chances and Benetton have done that.  They’ve worked hard throughout the season and played good rugby in the Rainbow Cup with some of their international quality back. 

“These players have to go out there with the mentality to finish the season a high and after all the hard work do it for themselves and prove a lot of doubters wrong.

Williams says Italy and Benetton’s fly-half Paolo Garbisi has been a class-act for the host side in recent weeks. “He’s a great player, he’s young but he’s doing it for Benetton. He’s a class act with some good players around him who all work really hard and offer him options left right and centre. They enjoy playing on the counter, have good set plays, a strong backline and play with a smile on their face.  I enjoy watching Garbisi play, he’s gutsy and has a go. He does makes mistakes but he dusts himself off and goes again. You have to be that resilient and have that kind of character at outside half – and he’s a massive part of everything Benetton are doing well.

It’s an exciting Final and a case of ‘expect the unexpected’. We have two teams going head-to-head with no track record of playing each other, two teams confident after playing some good rugby in the Rainbow Cup and two teams that I don’t think are going to sit back and wait for the other team to make mistake.

“They both like to throw the ball around but also have contrasts in the way they play which will make it exciting to watch.  I’ve enjoyed watching the South African teams, they have really class players and play some fantastic rugby – it’s a joy to see. But Benetton are very resilient and typically Italian – they just don’t give up.”

Premier Sports rugby coverage this weekend:

  • Fri 18 June La Rochelle v Racing 92 Live on Premier Sports 1/FreeSports from 7.40pm (UK)
  • Sat 19 June Benetton v Vodacom Bulls Live on Premier Sports 1 from 4.30pm
  • Sat 19 June Toulouse v Bordeaux Bègles Live on Premier Sports 1/FreeSports from 7.40pm (UK)
  • Mon 21 June TOP 14 highlights show 8pm Premier Sports 2