Planet Rugby

Preview: Challenge Cup, Pool Three

13th January 2011 12:03

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Jon Golding

Back at prop: Jon Golding

Newcastle head coach Alan Tait has made eight changes for the visit of Top 14 outfit Montpellier in the Amlin Challenge Cup on Friday.

Alex Tait starts for the first time since damaging ankle ligaments against Exeter last month, whilst Chris Pilgrim is handed the number nine jersey.

Luke Eves and Michael Tait make up the heart of the Falcons back-line, with Danny Williams getting the nod on the wing.

In the pack, the Falcons will be boosted by the return of Jon Golding who partners Matt Thompson and James Hall in the front-row. And Filipo Levi is the only other change, as Newcastle opt for a strong frontline against what is expected to be a physical Montpellier outfit.

"I really look forward to these European competitions. I've not got many concerns and I was pleased with the finish to the game on Friday," said Tait.

"This competition poses new challenges but we're at home and we feel we've got a good chance of putting on a good performance and getting a result. It's at Kingston Park and it's a chance for some of the other lads in the squad to take centre stage."

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Michael Tait, 12 Luke Eves, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 6 Brent Wilson, 5 Filipo Levi, 4 James Hudson, 3 James Hall, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Darren Fearn, 19 Glen Townson, 20 Alex Gray, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Andrew Henderson, 23 James Fitzpatrick.

Montpellier:15 Jean-Matthieu Alcalde, 14 Dimitri Pelo, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Florian Nicot, 11 Sébastien Kuzbik, 10 Raphael Lagarde, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Marc Giraud, 7 Johan Wasserman, 6 Vassili Bost, 5 Michel Macurdy, 4 Goncalo Uva, 3 Kevin Kervarec, 2 Joan Caudullo, 1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga.
Replacements: 16 Fabien Rofes, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Sébastien Petit, 19 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20 Adrien Tomas, 21 Seta Tuilevuka, 22 Adrien Pratmarty, 23 Aliki Fakate.

Date: Friday, January 14
Kick-off: 20:00
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)

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Exeter v Bourgoin

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has challenged his side to give themselves every opportunity to create yet more history for the club as they prepare to tackle French visitors Bourgoin in the Amlin Challenge Cup this weekend.

With just two games remaining in Pool Three of this season's competition, Baxter knows victory over visiting Bourgoin on Saturday and a similar outcome next week away to fellow Top 14 side Montpellier will ensure the Chiefs of a quarter-final place.

"A quarter-final could potentially be a very big game," he said.

"Some big names could drop down from the competition above [Heineken Cup] to be part of it. It's good for us and for me, but the most important thing is to be able to go to Montpellier with something to play for.

"To travel abroad with a real reason to play will be fantastic. We're in a good frame of mind as a team and we're relatively injury-free, so we're going to go for it. It's definitely more intense now and the players understand that, but ambitious players want to play in big games."

With just Paul McKenzie currently on the sidelines through injury, Baxter has a wealth of options at his disposal for the visit of Bourgoin, who currently sit bottom of France's top division.

Team news sees the back division altered with the inclusions of Matt Jess and Andrew Higgins on the wing; Phil Dollman at centre and a new half-back pairing of Ryan Davis and Junior Poluleuligaga. In the pack, the only changes come in the front-row where Ben Moon, Simon Alcott and the experienced Chris Budgen are all handed starting spots.

"There's no distinct pattern to the way they play," said the Exeter coach.

"They're very much a heads-up rugby side and that's their danger - we could get hit with something we're not prepared for.

"That said, we feel we've trained well and we feel we're mentally shifting in the right direction with regards to reacting to different scenarios. A team that's going to do the unexpected is what we need to hone ourselves to that mental state, where you don't get caught for length-of-the-field tries like we did at Gloucester."

Indeed, Baxter thinks that makes them even more of a threat, adding: "If I was a Bourgoin player playing in a European cup game on telly and I didn't know where my next contract was coming from, I would think that was quite important," he said. "We want to show ourselves off as well. We like to think we're a good side and we like to make people see that."

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ryan Davis, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes, 3 Chris Budgen, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ignacio Elosu, 18 Hoani Tui, 19 Chad Slade, 20 James Phillips, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Bryan Rennie.

Bourgoin: 15 Alberto Di Bernardo, 14 Brando Va'aulu, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Jean-Francois Coux, 11 Mael Moinot, 10 Matias Viazzo, 9 Mickaël Forest, 8 Yan Labrit, 7 Wessel Jooste, 6 Jérémy Guillot, 5 Camille Levast, 4 Albin Louchard, 3 Erwan Iapteff, 2 Julien Janaudy, 1 Olivier Milloud.

Replacements: 16 Jordan Merle, 17 Arnaud Tchougong, 18 Albertus Buckle, 19 Coenraad Basson, 20 Timothy Cowley, 21 Yan Ruel, 22 Jérémy Gondrand, 23 Willem van Zyl.

Date: Saturday, January 15
Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assessor: John Sheehan (Ireland)

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