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5 Things We Learned From The First Round Of The URC

5 Things We Learned From The First Round Of The URC
By Colman Stanley Updated

The beginning of the last season of the URC was filled with anticipation - and a hint of skepticism - given the rebranding and inclusion of South African sides. And, after its resounding success, the next year will be a crucial period to capitalise and improve.

The first week of the new season did not disappoint, and it was filled with a buzz that has often been missing from this competition, as it played third fiddle to the Premiership and Top 14.

Here are five talking points from what was a successful weekend of URC rugby.

Nostalgia For Prime Luke Marshall

It was hard to resist the comparisons between Luke Marshall's first line-break against Connacht, and the ones he made in the early stages of his Ireland debut, nine and a half years ago.

Since that day in February 2013, Marshall has been perpetually injured, suffering awful luck with concussions, stunting the growth of the talent he showed so often early in his career.

He was energetic and involved to a great degree against Connacht, and rewarded with multiple breaks and a try. His link play with Stuart McCloskey was excellent, and if he can keep James Hume out of the side, then it could push him into Ireland contention once again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BS8qssun0E

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Cardiff A Force To Be Reckoned With?

New signing Talupe Faletau showed up big-time in their 20-13 win over Munster at Cardiff Arms Park, while their other big name signing, Liam Williams, unfortunately was forced off with a bad looking injury after 19 minutes.

Faletau highlighted once more that he is one of the premier no. 8s of his generation, showcasing his carrying, tackling, and offloading skills throughout the match.

With the like of Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins still to come into the side, they could push for glory in the Challenge Cup, and URC play-offs could perhaps be on the cards next year.

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17 September 2022; URC ;Malakai Fekitoa of Munster is tackled by Jarrod Evans and Gareth Anscombe, left, of Cardiff during the United Rugby Championship match between Cardiff and Munster at Cardiff Arms Park in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Sean Alabaster/Sportsfile

Connacht Perhaps Not As Good As People Think

There seems to be a general consensus that Connacht have been going fine in the last few season, and that Andy Friend has been the best man for the job of Head Coach/Director of Rugby.

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Up and down form, a failure of a URC season in 2021/22, an overall disappointing showing in the Champions Cup, and a dire performance on the weekend in their 36-10 loss to Ulster would question the truth of the first sentence.

Having said this, Connacht have made remarkable progress over the last 15 years, and do not have many of the benefits the other three provinces are privy to. Their 2016 domestic title has also raised expectations a little unfairly.

They are not in a bad place by any means, but it is fair to say that have been underperforming.

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Ulster Are The Spurs Of The URC

The best of the four provinces to watch in full flow, courtesy of a backline littered with an abundance of homegrown flair players.

Dan McFarland also has developed their pack into an impressive outfit who often play above themselves, with the likes of Tom O'Toole, Rob Herring, and Nick Timoney flourishing under his guidance.

However, if you were to make predictions for later in the season, when the knockouts have come around, would you back them to get into a final? Would you back them close out a tight game and fulfil the promise they have shown all season?

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As Alex Ferguson once said in a team talk before a Spurs game, "Lads it's Tottenham," one could also picture the likes of John Dobson saying to his troop of Stormers, "Lads it's just Ulster."

17 September 2022; URC ;Luke Marshall of Ulster scores his side's first try during the United Rugby Championship match between Ulster and Connacht at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by John Dickson/Sportsfile

URC Hype Train Rumbles On

The inclusion of the South Africans franchises, and the rebranding of the competition has brought a new found excitement and legitimacy to a league which has gone through too many different iterations to mention.

The success of last season continued through the off-season as anticipation grew, and culminated in an opening week that brought with it a buzz we have rarely seen since the competition began.

SEE ALSO: Nigel Owens Gives His Expert Take On Raynal's Hugely Controversial Call

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