PRO14 clubs' Xmas wishlists: What is each club after?
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 24/12/17 4:28pm
Christmas is upon us and with the inaugural PRO14 season roughly halfway through, what will each team be hoping for this festive season?
Glasgow and Scarlets lead Conference A and Conference B respectively, but fans of each and every club in the league will be hoping for a gift or two from Santa this Christmas.
Here's what they may be looking for...
After Jonny Gray's new deal this week amid interest from Bristol and several Top 14 clubs, Warriors supporters will now most be hoping for a fly-half signing to replace Finn Russell this Xmas.
After European disappointment, Dave Rennie and co will also hope to maintain their healthy gap at the top of Conference A, perhaps harbouring dreams of going the whole domestic season unbeaten...
Munster's stocking is pretty full with a superb Champions Cup victory over the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road plus the re-signing of skipper Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander.
Stander had been linked with a big-money move to Montpellier but committed his future to Munster and Ireland by signing a new three-year contract.
Having played a starring role in Ireland's November series, Andrew Conway is another Munster player out of contract and another individual supporters would like to see commit.
Cheetahs fans will be quite concerned heading into the festive period, with a number of their key performers having been pilfered by Super Rugby clubs.
Standout winger Makazole Mapimpi has signed a deal to join the Sharks, while fellow back-three men Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen are on their way to the Stormers.
Their rather potent backline is being ravaged at an alarming pace and all connected with the club will hope for reinforcements.
A new coach! After news of Danny Wilson's impending exit, the Welsh region have yet to fill the position.
Blues fans will also hope their side can break into the top three of Conference A, both to qualify for Europe outright and make the playoffs. They are currently six points behind the Cheetahs.
All in Cardiff will also hold a slight hope George North might yet sign with them, as unlikely as that seems at the present moment.
Connacht fans got an early Christmas present as Tiernan O'Halloran signed a new two-year deal with the province.
League wise, Connacht currently sit fifth in Conference A, just one point behind the Cardiff Blues. If they can leapfrog them they will be in the mix for Champions Cup qualification, albeit they would have to have a better points difference than their Conference B equivalents.
At present, Edinburgh are in the driving seat for that seventh European Cup spot, 10 points better off than Connacht. So Kieran Keane's men need some big victories.
Zebre's performances this season have been improved, however they will be disappointed with their 27-14 loss to Italian rivals Benetton.
They will have a chance to revenge that loss on December 30 and head into 2018 with a win under their belts.
The number one thing Ospreys fans will want is a run of form.
Their performances in the PRO14 have been confusingly poor, while they have saved their best displays for the Champions Cup: a superb performance in defeat at Saracens and high scoring victories over Northampton.
Fans will also hope for a pair of eye-catching new half-back signings to replace outgoing duo Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb. Aled Davies has agreed to join, but Ospreys supporters will want more incoming players to compensate for such significant losses.
Top of the Scarlets fans wishes will be some transfer activity.
Second row Tadhg Beirne, backrow John Barclay and centre Scott Williams are outgoing, all of whom were major players in last season's championship victory.
Kieron Fonotia is incoming, but the region need more and fans are dreaming of a return for one George North.
After the critical re-signing of tighthead Tadhg Furlong to a new three-year deal, top of Leinster's priorities will be to keep hold of coach Stuart Lancaster, with Northampton Saints said to be interested.
The former England boss' introduction to the province has been hugely positive, with the players said to be huge admirers of him.
Fans of the northern province have arguably their two main players out of contract at the end of the season in captain Rory Best and superb second row Iain Henderson and will want their futures sorted out pronto.
At this point, most Ulster and Ireland supporters would feel Henderson deserves the offer of a central IRFU contract, and will be hoping to see him rewarded as such.
Another key area of concern for Ulster fans this Christmas is in the fly-half position. Christian Lealiifano is signed up until the end of the Champions Cup pool stages in January, but with Paddy Jackson suspended, they need a solution for the final five months of the season.
Some consistency. Good performances have invariably followed ropy ones under Richard Cockerill.
Fourteen-man Edinburgh won the opening 1872 Cup clash as Chris Dean's last-gasp try edged Glasgow 18-17 and will be looking to regain the trophy when they travel to Scotstoun Stadium on December 30.
Edinburgh fans will also hope their team can close the gap on the top three in Conference B, and maintain a healthy advantage over Conference A's fourth-placed side (currently Connacht).
Should they manage this, they would make a return to the Champions Cup next season.
A bit of luck is what all connected with Benetton will be hoping for.
Performances have been there, unlike in past seasons, but tight and very often last-minute defeats have rung supreme.
Last-gasp heartbreaks away to Ulster, Toulon and Scarlets have occurred this season, with the same happening at home to Scarlets in the league.
The Italians deserve more than they have got so far this season.
After the high-profile signings of Ross Moriarty and Richard Hibbard from Gloucester, the number one wish Dragons fans have this Christmas is the signing of one George North.
They are well in the mix for his signature and if they could nab him, Bernard Jackman really would have the Dragons dreaming again.
Another key hope for supporters will be an away victory. Their two PRO14 wins so far this season have come at home, while they went through the whole of last season without a victory on the road.
After nine consecutive defeats, Kings fans are still waiting to witness their first PRO14 victory.
This, quite obviously, is tip-top of their wishlist.