Finn Russell makes swift return for Racing 92

Date published: December 11 2020 - Adam Kyriacou

Four games conclude the opening round of the Champions Cup on Sunday, with Munster taking on Harlequins the final pool match of the weekend.

Lyon v Gloucester

Top 14 outfit Lyon will kick off their Champions Cup campaign on home soil as they welcome Gloucester to Matmut Stadium de Gerland.

France international Baptiste Couilloud captains the side from scrum-half, alongside fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski, with Charlie Ngatai and Pierre-Louis Barassi forming the midfield combination. Noa Nakaitaci and Xavier Mignot are on the wings while Toby Arnold is at full-back.

The second-row is full of talent as Felix Lambey and Izack Rodda link up while in the back-row Loann Goujon, Dylan Cretin and number eight Mathieu Bastareaud form an exciting trio.

Meanwhile, Gloucester head coach George Skivington has named a young and exciting team with a blend of experience to take on the French side, with 15 of the 23 either coming through or a graduate from the Academy set-up.

Jamal Ford Robinson, James Hanson and Ciaran Knight will combine in the front-row with Ollie Atkins and Jamie Gibson both making their first starts for Gloucester behind them in the second-row.

Jack Clement and captain Lewis Ludlow will start at flanker with Seb Nagle-Taylor, who has joined the club on loan from Hartpury, at number eight.

In the backs, Stephen Varney returns from international duty with Italy and will link up at half-back with former Gloucester U18 teammate George Barton.

Tom Seabrook and Henry Trinder start in the midfield with Alex Morgan, Jacob Morris and Kyle Moyle in the back three.

Amongst the replacements are Jay Tyack and Freddie Thomas who are set to make their Gloucester debuts from the bench.

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Baptiste Couilloud (c), 8 Mathieu Bastareaud, 7 Dylan Cretin, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Vivien Devisme, 19 Killian Geraci, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Leo Berdeu, 23 Thibaut Regard

Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Jacob Morris, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tom Seabrook, 11 Alex Morgan, 10 George Barton, 9 Steve Varney, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Jack Clement, 5 Jamie Gibson, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Ciaran Knight, 2 James Hanson, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jay Tyack, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Josh Gray, 21 Freddie Thomas, 22 Charlie Chapman, 23 Charlie Sharples

Venue: Matmut Stadium de Gerland
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Tual Trainini (France), Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors

Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs will kick-off their title defence against Glasgow Warriors with a small section of supporters back inside Sandy Park.

For the first time since March, there will be a match-day buzz about the ground as the Chiefs prepare to welcome back 2,000 of their season ticket holders for the visit of the Scots.

With his international stars back in harness, plus the core group performing so well in the Premiership, Baxter admitted selection for Sunday’s game was a real headache.

Of those returning from international duty, four of them slot straight back into the Chiefs starting line-up. Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray, both former Warriors players, are in at full-back and lock, while Henry Slade and Sam Skinner also get the nod from the outset. On the bench, England duo Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jonny Hill, as does Scotland’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson welcomes eight returning Scotland stars back into the fold this weekend.

There are nine changes in total to the starting XV that took to the field against the Dragons last Saturday, in a side captained by Ryan Wilson from the blindside flank.

An all-new front-row sees Oli Kebble and Zander Fagerson return as the props, with George Turner – a try scorer at Sandy Park last season – packing down at hooker.

Fresh from playing in every match of Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup campaign, Scott Cummings returns to the Warriors to partner Rob Harley in the second-row.

Captain Wilson is joined in the back-row by another returning Scotland cap in the form of Matt Fagerson, Tom Gordon having shaken off a knock to complete the trio.

Pete Horne continues at fly-half for the seventh consecutive match, as Ali Price lines up at scrum-half to partner the club centurion.

The midfield sees Sam Johnson start at inside centre for the first time since the visit of Leinster at the start of November, with Nick Grigg making it an all-Scotland centre partnership.

Glenn Bryce and Lee Jones retain their places in the back three, as Tommy Seymour’s inclusion on the wing completes the starting line-up.

The bench sees Huw Jones handed the 23 jersey, having made a match-winning intervention against Cardiff Blues on his last outing for the club.

Fellow Scotland cap Grant Stewart is amongst the front-row cover, alongside Aki Seiuli and Enrique Pieretto – the latter in line to make his European debut for Glasgow against the team from which he joined the club.

There could also be a first European appearance in Glasgow colours for TJ Ioane, with Kiran McDonald completing the pack replacements.

Brandon Thomson and Sean Kennedy join Jones as the cover behind the scrum, Kennedy having crossed for his first Glasgow try against the Dragons.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten​

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Pete Horne, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson (c), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal (England), Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

Racing 92 v Connacht

Racing 92 have named an impressive line-up for their opening pool match against a dangerous Connacht outfit at Paris La Defense Arena.

The backline boasts an embarrassment of riches as Teddy Iribaren and a returning Finn Russell link up in the half-backs with captain Henry Chavancy and Virimi Vakatawa in midfield. Full-back Kurtley Beale and wings Teddy Thomas and Donovan Taofifenua complete the backs.

Up front there is power in the shape of Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat and Dominic Bird in the tight five, with Wenceslas Lauret featuring in the back-row.

Former Ireland international Simon Zebo must make do with a place on the bench, where he is joined by scrum-half Maxime Machenaud.

Meanwhile, Connacht have welcomed back a number of Irish internationals for their Champions Cup opener.

Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham and Kieran Marmion have all been named in the starting line-up, as well as Ultan Dillane who was released from the Ireland squad last week.

Heffernan and Bealham are joined by Denis Buckley in the front-row, while Dillane is partnered by Eoghan Masterson to complete the tight five. Jarrad Butler captains the side from openside flanker in a back-row that also includes Sean Masterson and Paul Boyle.

Jack Carty starts at fly-half, while Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold continue to pair-up at centre.

In the back three Matt Healy comes on to the wing while Alex Wootton and John Porch are both retained after impressive starts to the season for the duo.

There’s also a return to the matchday squad for Tiernan O’Halloran, with the Clifden native recovering from injury to be named among the replacements.

The teams:

Racing 92: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (c), 11 Donovan Taofifenua, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Fabien Sanconnie, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Georges Henri Colombe, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Kevin Le Guen, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Ibrahim Diallo, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Antoine Gibert, 23 Simon Zebo

Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Alex Wootton, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (c), 6 Sean Masterson, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Eoghan Masterson, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Cian Prendergast, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran

Venue: Paris La Defense Arena
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Munster v Harlequins

Munster duo Gavin Coombes and Damian de Allende start on their European debuts with Academy prop Josh Wycherley in line to make his Champions Cup bow off the bench against Harlequins.

Keith Earls makes his first Munster appearance of the season with Mike Haley at full-back as Andrew Conway completes the back three.

De Allende and Chris Farrell form the centre partnership with Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan in the half-backs.

James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne and Stephen Archer pack down in the front row with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

Coombes, captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander start in the back-row.

There are two Munster Academy players among the replacements as Wycherley is joined by Ben Healy, who made his European debut last January.

Meanwhile, back-row James Chisholm makes his 100th Harlequins appearance as scrum-half Danny Care earns his 50th European game in the team to travel to Munster.

There are three changes to Paul Gustard’s side that claimed victory over Gloucester in Round Three of the Premiership season last Sunday. England international Joe Marler returns from England camp to start at loosehead, with fellow long-time Quin and England teammate Mike Brown starting at full-back after being rested last weekend.

Elsewhere, Australian international Ben Tapuai starts at inside centre, replacing suspended Springbok Andre Esterhuizen in the 12 jersey.

On the bench, academy prop Fin Baxter and new short-term signing Richard de Carpentier are set to make their senior debuts for the club at Thomond Park.

In the absence of injured club captain Stephan Lewies, number eight Alex Dombrandt continues to lead the side.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Peter O’Mahony (c), 6 Gavin Coombes, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Rory Scannell

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (c), 7 Will Evans, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Glen Young, 4 Hugh Tizard, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Fin Baxter, 19 Richard De Carpentier, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Scott Steele, 22 James Lang, 23 Ross Chisholm

Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)