Champions Cup: Tweaks for Racing 92 while La Rochelle keep the faith ahead of all-French semi-final

Date published: May 13 2022 - Adam Kyriacou

An all-French battle will decide the remaining finalist of this season’s Champions Cup when Racing 92 and La Rochelle meet in Lens on Sunday.

In what is a difficult game to predict, Racing 92 made the last four thanks to a win over Sale Sharks while La Rochelle beat Montpellier last weekend.

Just four points separate these two teams in the Top 14 standings so expect this showdown to be closely-fought, with talent aplenty in both line-ups.

In team news, Racing star Gael Fickou moves to inside centre to accommodate the robust Virimi Vakatawa, with Henry Chavancy dropping to the bench in the only changes to the backline. Fickou will captain the team, with Finn Russell again at fly-half.

Bernard Le Roux starts with Anton Bresler in a new second-row pairing, while Trevor Nyakane, Teddy Baubigny and Guram Gogichashvili make up a new-look front-row with last week’s starters moving to the bench. The loose trio remains unchanged.

For La Rochelle, they have kept the faith with the same starting XV that beat Montpellier as Springbok Dillyn Leyds again lines up at full-back alongside compatriot Raymond Rhule and Jules Favre. Jeremy Sinzelle and Jonathan Danty are the centres.

Head coach Ronan O’Gara looks for continuity as he rolls out a forward pack that includes Dany Priso, Uini Atonio, Victor Vito and Gregory Alldritt.

Form: This will be the first meeting between Racing 92 and La Rochelle in the Champions Cup; Racing 92 have faced Top 14 opposition on 13 occasions previously (W8, L5), while La Rochelle have played French opposition four times (W3, L1). Racing 92 have won eight of their last nine games in the Champions Cup (L1), including the last five in a row; however, their only defeat in that spell came in a knockout game against French opposition. La Rochelle have won 10 of their last 11 games in the Champions Cup, including the last six in a row, this after winning just three of their previous 10.

 

Prediction: La Rochelle by 5

The teams:

Racing 92: 15 Max Spring, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Ibrahim Diallo, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Guram Gogichashvili
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Baptiste Pesenti, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Antoine Gibert, 23 Henry Chavancy

La Rochelle: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Jules Favre, 13 Jérémy Sinzelle, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c), 7 Victor Vito, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Rémi Picquette, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Matthias Haddad, 21 Arthur Retiere, 22 Levani Botia, 23 Pierre Popelin

Venue: Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
Kick-off: 16:00 local (15:00 BST, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)