Planet Rugby

Preview: Perpigan v Edinburgh

18th October 2013 11:33

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SKY_MOBILE James Hook

Shifted to 10: James Hook

Perpignan must look to overcome Edinburgh to maintain their quest for top spot in Heineken Cup Pool 6 at Stade Aime Giral on Sunday.

The Top 14 side suffered a narrow defeat to Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday, having led for much of the game, and having experienced centre Lifiemi Mafi sent-off.

Domestically, Perpignan have been in good form, with recent victories over Biarritz, Toulouse, and Montpellier. In keeping with the French rugby pattern, they have struggled somewhat on their travels, with a heavy loss away to Brive, and a narrow defeat at star-studded Racing Metro several weeks ago.

Welsh playmaker James Hook turned in an impressive performance at Kingsholm, scoring an early try, and slotting five kicks from the tee and a single drop-goal. He was a doubt for Sunday's clash but has been named at fly-half.

Edinburgh turned the tables on some uninspiring Pro12 form last week with a spirited home win over Irish heavyweights Munster.

Having suffered domestically, languishing in the lower reaches of the league after just a solitary victory, the Scottish side were already widely earmarked as Pool 6 basement boys.

However, there were shades of Edinburgh's 2011/12 Heineken Cup run, where the capital outfit reached the tournament semi-finals, as Alan Solomons' men scored twenty-nine points to triumph.

The performance of last week's man-of-the-match Greig Laidlaw will be key on Sunday, and the Scots' inconsistent scrummage must match that of their powerful hosts.

It will be intriguing to see how both sides react to their respective opening round results. Edinburgh may smell another European upset, while Perpignan must bounce back quickly to resurrect their pool-topping aspirations.

Perpignan have named Joffrey Michel at full-back in an entirely new backline as Hook moved to fly-half in the absence of French interntaional Camille Lopez.

There are a total of 11 changes as David Marty returns at outside centre while Sione Piukala takes over at 12 from the suspended Lifeimi Mafi, who copped six weeks for a high tackle on Gloucester's Ryan Mills.

In the pack Jean-Pierre Perez replaces Alasdair Strokosch on the side of the scrum while Sona Taumalolo is back at loosehead.

Edinburgh Rugby head coach Alan Solomons was pleased to select a settled side for Sunday's clash.

The selection of back-row Roddy Grant in place of the injured Dimitri Basilaia (groin) is the only change to the side that started last weekend's round one win over Munster at Murrayfield.

Argentine internationalist Tomas Leonardi takes Grant's vacated place on the bench, while fit again lock Izak van der Westhuizen and full-back Greig Tonks join the replacements in place of Ollie Atkins and the injured Sean Kennedy (calf).

"The team played well against Munster and it's important not only to maintain some consistency, but also to reward those players with selection," said Solomons.

"So far we have seen the continuous improvement that we've asked of the players. We have reduced our error rate and penalty count, and improved our execution.

The teams:

Perpignan: 15 Joffrey Michel, 14 Watisoni Votu, 13 David Marty, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Richard Haughton, 10 James Hook, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Jean-Pierre Perez, 6 Justin Purll, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 George Jgenti, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Romain Terrain, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Karl Chateau, 20 Nicolas Durand, 21 Tommy Allan, 22 Wandile Mjekevu, 23 Luke Charteris,

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Douglas Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Cornell Du Preez, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 2 Ross Ford, 3 WP Nel, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Lodewicus Blaauw, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Izak Van Der Westhuizen, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Joaquin Dominguez, 23 Greig Tonks,

Date: Sunday, October 20
Venue: Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan
Kick-off: 13:45 local (12.45 BST/ 11.35 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea

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