Preview: Challenge Cup, Friday

Date published: January 21 2016

Four matches are scheduled in the Challenge Cup on Friday, with Montpellier taking on Harlequins at Altrad Stadium the pick of the bunch.

Cardiff Blues vs Calvisano

Sam Warburton returns to the starting side as Cardiff Blues complete the pool stages of the Challenge Cup with a clash against Calvisano.

Warburton – this week named as Wales captain for the forthcoming Six Nations – is one of 12 changes made by head coach Danny Wilson for the Pool 3 encounter that his team must win with a bonus point to try and qualify for the knockout stages.

A total of seven players named by Wales this week are in the squad to face the Italians.

Wing Tom James is named in the starting line-up, after recovering from illness, while centre Gavin Evans will partner Cory Allen in midfield.

A new half-back pairing will see Gareth Anscombe start his first game of the season for Cardiff Blues alongside scrum-half Tavis Knoyle.

A completely new pack for the game will be led by captain Gethin Jenkins in the front-row, who joins forces with young hooker Ethan Lewis and prop Dillon Lewis, this week named by Wales U20s.

New Zealand lock Jarrad Hoeata and Lou Reed will play in the second-row while Warburton is into the back-row alongside USA international Cam Dolan and Josh Navidi, who is at number eight.

Calvisano sit last in Pool 3 after five straight defeats in which they have conceded a total of 270 points.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Cam Dolan, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ethan Lewis, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Aled Summerhill.

Calvisano: 15 Ben De Jager, 14 Giacomo De Santis, 13 Alberto Chiesa, 12 Tommy Castello, 11 Marco Susio, 10 Florin Vlaicu, 9 Pablo Canavosio, 8 Jim Tuivaiti, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Matteo Archetti, 5 Davide Zanetti, 4 Michele Andreotti, 3 Rudy Biancotti, 2 Lorenzo Giovanchelli, 1 Luca Scarsini.
Replacements: 16 Gabriele Morelli, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Agustin Cavalieri, 20 Emilio Vezzoli, 21 Nicola Belardo, 22 Riccardo Raffaele, 23 Filippo Buscema.

Date: Friday, January 22
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Thomas Charabas (France)
Assistant Referees: Arnaud Blondel (France), Luc Ramos (France)

Montpellier vs Harlequins

Montpellier will be looking to seal their place as a best runner-up in the pool stage when they host Harlequins at Altrad Stadium.

Currently sitting on fifteen points, they know victory will be good enough for a place in the last eight and head coach Jake White subsequently names a strong side that includes Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis in the front-row.

It is as close to full strength as Montpellier can get as Benoit Paillaugue starts alongside Demetri Catrakilis while Jesse Mogg, Benjamin Fall and Marvin O'Connor combine in the back-three for Friday's mouth-watering game.

Meanwhile, there are eight changes to the Harlequins team which beat Cardiff Blues last week.

In the backs, Ross Chisholm starts at full-back with Marland Yarde and Charlie Walker named on the wings. Harry Sloan and Matt Hopper combine to make a new centre partnership, while Ben Botica and Karl Dickson combine in the half-backs.

In the forwards Mark Lambert starts at loosehead, joining Joe Gray and Will Collier in the front-row.

Behind an unchanged second-row, Luke Wallace is named at openside with Jack Clifford captaining the squad from number eight.

Among the replacements Winston Stanley has been named.

The teams:

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Anthony Tuitavke, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Charles Geli, 17 Davit Kubriashvili, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Antoine Battut, 21 Nic White, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Yvan Reilhac.

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Jack Clifford (c), 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Danny Care, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Winston Stanley.

Date: Friday, January 22
Venue: Altrad Stadium
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Jon Hardy (Wales)
TMO: Jonathan Mason (Wales)

Castres vs Pau

French pride will be on the line at Stade Pierre Antoine as Castres and Pau look to end disappointing pool campaigns with a win.

Castres are currently on eleven points while Pau are on an embarrassing zero, but both name strong sides for this derby match.

The hosts start with Sitiveni Sivivatu and Remi Lamerat in their backline at wing and inside centre respectively while Scottish number eight Johnnie Beattie is in a forward pack that includes hooker Marc-Antoine Rallier.

Pau meanwhile have named All Black Colin Slade at fly-half but there is no place for former international team-mate Conrad Smith.

James Coughlan, Paddy Butler and Sean Dougall form an all-Irish back-row while former Highlander Chris King is at tighthead prop.

The teams:

Castres: 15 Julien Caminati, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Florian Vialelle, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Mathieu Babillot, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Benjamin Desroche, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Eric Sione, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Julien Beziat, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Karena Wihongi, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Theo Hannoyer, 21 Francois Fontaine, 22 Romain Cabannes, 23 Valentin Mouysset.

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Sireli Bobo, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Daniel Ramsay, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Chris King, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq Brettes, 1 Julien Jacquot.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Geoffrey Moise, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Claude Dry, 20 Brice Monzeglio, 21 Samuel Marques, 22 Brandon Fajardo, 23 Watisoni Votu.

Date: Friday, January 22
Venue: Stade Pierre Antoine
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest (England)
Assistant Referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England), Kevin Stewart (England)

La Rochelle vs Worcester

Worcester have called on the experience of Ireland international Donncha O'Callaghan and captain GJ van Velze for their trip to La Rochelle.

O'Callaghan, who has played in every Premiership match this season, will gain his first taste of European action with Warriors – as will Van Velze, who is set to return from injury for his first appearance since November's clash with Saracens at Twickenham.

Head coach Carl Hogg has named a strong squad as Warriors look to end their Challenge Cup campaign with victory.

The front-row sees three changes from last weekend's side as Val Rapava Ruskin, Dan George and Nick Schonert all come in, while Ryan Mills' inclusion is the solitary change in the backline. 

Meanwhile, Matt Cox could be in line for his 50th Warriors appearance if he comes off the bench.

Worcester are currently locked on five points with La Rochelle at the foot of Pool 4, with the French side looking to finish on a high.

They will hope Zack Holmes directs the ship with authority and that Jone Qovu and Uini Atonio put in big shifts in the forward pack.

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Malietoa Hingano, 11 Elliot Roudil, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 7 Romana Graham, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Leo Cedaro, 4 Damien Lagrange, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Jordan Seneca.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Gagi Bazadze, 19 Zeno Kieft, 20 Benoit Guyot, 21 Ricky Januarie, 22 Pierre Aguillon, 23 Benjamin Lapeyre.

Worcester: 15 Ben Howard, 14 Andy Short, 13 Andy Symons, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Tiff Eden, 9 Luke Baldwin, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Dan Sanderson, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Daniel George, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Bower, 17 Ben Sowrey, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Max Stelling, 23 Perry Humphreys.

Date: Friday, January 22
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre
Kick-off: 19:30 local (18:30 GMT)
Referee: Elia Rizzo (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Filippo Bertelli (Italy), Luca Trentin (Italy)