Planet Rugby

Preview: Clermont v Harlequins

18th October 2013 11:55

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Sitiveni Sivivatu diving over for Clermont

In top form: Sitiveni Sivivatu

Clermont are set to welcome struggling Harlequins to Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin on Sunday in their Heineken Cup Pool 4 fixture.

The Top 14 side suffered narrow defeat last week to Racing Metro in Paris, picking up a losing bonus point, but were unlucky not to emerge victorious against their French rivals.

In particular, the performance of ex-All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu stood out, and the squad has been boosted by the news that fellow wide man Napoleoni Nalaga will face no further disciplinary action for a knee on Racing's Marc Andreu.

However, Clermont will be without playmaker and scrum-half Morgan Parra, who was on Thursday banned for four weeks for punching during a league fixture.

At home, Clermont are a formidable prospect, and though their away form has been shaky, they have won their last 64 encounters at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.

Meanwhile, Harlequins suffered an unexpected defeat at The Stoop to Pro12 side Llanelli Scarlets in the opening round on Saturday.

Though the Welshmen turned in an outstanding performance, it was aided by a decidedly lacklustre display from the hosts.

This mirrored Quins' recent league form, winning just two of their opening five Premiership games, and causing concern among supporters.

With Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea bullishly dispelling the notion his men are suffering an early-season slump last week, he must be aware that the English outfit face a daunting prospect in turning over the French giants in their own back yard.

Quins can take solace in the performances of England skipper Chris Robshaw, and full-back Mike Brown, but must up their game drastically if they are to resurrect their qualification hopes with two cross-channel ventures looming.

In team news, Clermont skipper Aurélien Rougerie starts on the wing as Nalaga drops to the bench allowing Regan King to come into the starting XV at outside centre.

Thierry Lacrampe starts at scrum-half in place of suspended Parra.

In the pack, Alexandre Lapandry takes over from Julien Bardy at flank and there are two new props as Davit Zirakashvili and Vincent Debaty start.

There is just one change to the Harlequins backline as Paul Sackey is named on the right wing, with Tom Williams switching to the left wing.

Blindside flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu picked up a hamstring injury last week which requires surgery; this will rule the Samoan out until the end of January.

Tom Guest is brought into the back row with Luke Wallace and captain Chris Robshaw, as Nick Easter returns to the second-row.

The teams:

ASM Clermont Auvergne:15 Lee Byrne, 14 Aurélien Rougerie (capt), 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Brock James, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Vincent Debaty.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Loic Jacquet, 20 Gerhard Vosloo, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic , 22 Mike Delany, 23 Naipolioni Nalaga,

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Ben Botica, 11 Tom Williams, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Chris Robshaw (capt), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Easter, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Sam Smith, 23 Charlie Walker,

Date: Sunday, October 20
Venue: Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.
Kick-off: 16.00 local (15.00 BST /14.00 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy

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