Challenge Cup teams: Thursday

Date published: November 18 2015

Two Challenge Cup games take place on Thursday as Cardiff Blues host Harlequins, while the champions Gloucester travel to La Rochelle.

Cardiff Blues v Harlequins

USA international Blaine Scully will make his home debut at full-back for the Welsh region afterscoring his first try against Calvisano last weekend.

Head Coach Danny Wilson makes just two changes to the run-on side that claimed a 50-9 victory over their Italian hosts in the opening match in Pool 3 last weekend.

The other change is a call-up for Tongan tighthead prop Taufa'ao Filise into the front row to combine forces with skipper Gethin Jenkins and hooker Kristian Dacey.

Loosehead prop Sam Hobbs is fit to make his comeback amongst the replacements after missing the trip to Italy.

"It's an important home game and a challenge we are all looking forward to facing," said Wilson.

"Harlequins are a quality outfit with top players right through their squad that gives them real depth and firepower.

"They have a big driving lineout that has been extremely effective for them in the English league and Europe.

"Our discipline will be important to make sure we don't give away soft penalties to allow them to build that driving game.

"They also have a good offload game and can play some good running rugby to get in behind.

"We will be tested defensively and, where we currently sit, we need that; to keep building that area of our game and try and improve it to get to the standard we want it to be.

"Likewise we also want to see if our attacking game, that has seen us score 80 points in the last two games, can go well again against this type of opposition."

On the potential individual match-ups across the field, Wilson added: "There are lots of mouth-watering battles when you look at the half backs, back row, front row.

"If Adam Jones comes back I'm sure he will get a nice welcome back at Cardiff Arms Park.

"If Gethin and Adam come head-to-head it will cause interest and get bums on seats to come watch the game.

"We're looking forward to another home game and it would be fantastic to see fans come down on Thursday and get right being the team."

Meanwhile, Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea has made eight changes to his starting side that beat Montpellier last week.

Full-back Ollie Lindsay-Hague and winger Charlie Walker are named in the back three as fly-half Ben Botica makes his first start of the season, partnering scrum-half Karl Dickson.

Hooker Rob Buchanan and back row James Chisholm also make their first starts of the season, with Jack Clifford named as captain at openside flanker.

Among the replacements, Winston Stanley will look to make his senior debut for Harlequins with Tim Swiel also covering the backline.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Dan Fish

Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Jack Clifford (c), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Sam Twomey, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Collier, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Danny Care, 22 Winston Stanley, 23 Tim Swiel

Date: Thursday, November 19
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 21:45 GMT
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Laurent Cardona (France), Arnaud Blondel (France)
Television match official: Jean-Marie Piraveau (France)

La Rochelle v Gloucester

La Rochelle have rung the changes to their run-on side after suffering an away defeat to Worcester in their opener last weekend.

There are five changes in the backline, including several positional switches. Charles Bouldoire lines up at full-back after wearing the number 10 jersey last weekend while Alexander Northam switches from the right wing to the left wing.

The other changes amongst the backs sees Gabriel Lacroix wearing the number 14 jersey and Fabien Fortassin starts at fly-half alongside scrum-half Julien Audy while Malietoa Hingano joins Elliot Roudil in midfield.

In the forwards, former All Blacks lock Jason Eaton skippers the side from the blindside flank. He joins Kevin Gourdon and Romain Sazy in a new-look back row.

Jone Qovu Nailiko comes into the second row where he will partner Leo Cedaro while props Gagi Bazadze and Mike Corbel and hooker Benjamin Geledan come in to form a new front row.

Meanwhile, Gloucester have named a strong side for this trip after they got their campaign off to a winning start against Zebre last Saturday.

Only four players remain in the starting line-up from the Zebre clash – Bill Meakes, Mark Atkinson, Henry Purdy and Ross Moriarty as Gloucester, who are playing their third game in six days, ring the changes.

James Hook starts at full-back, with Charlie Sharples moving back to his usual position on the right wing, while Billy Twelvetrees will partner Greig Laidlaw at half-back.

Up front, Paddy McAllister, Richard Hibbard and John Afoa form a familiar looking front row trio, Tom Savage teams up with All Black Jeremy Thrush in the boiler room and Ross Moriarty, Matt Kvesic and Ben Morgan make up the back row.

Speaking to the local media before the team travelled to France, head coach Laurie Fisher admitted that Gloucester know that they will have to be at their best to prevail.

"Traditionally, French sides are a lot better at home than they are away but they had a hard-fought game at Sixways against Worcester last week," he said.

"They're performing well in the Top 14 this year and I think it'll be a tough old game up there.

"The way this tournament works, you've got to keep on winning. So, we've given ourselves a good opportunity. A bit like Oyonnax last year, if you can get those results in the first two games, one home and one away, then you start to set yourself up.

"We're just looking to get the win. I don't think there are any thoughts about bonus points. It's just about rolling up our sleeves, it'll be a tough place and they'll be very committed in front of their home crowd.

"They're a big team with some quality players so it's a big task for us."

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Charles Bouldoire, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Elliot Roudil, 12 Malietoa Hingano, 11 Alexander Northam, 10 Fabien Fortassin, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Romain Sazy, 6 Jason Eaton (c), 5 Leo Cedaro, 4 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 3 Gagi Bazadze, 2 Benjamin Geledan, 1 Mike Corbel.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Vincent Pelo, 19 Damien Lagrange, 20 Zeno Kieft, 21 Albain Meron, 22 Jules Lebail, 23 Martin Carre

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy; 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Sione Kalafamoni, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Stevie McColl, 23 Rob Cook

Date: Thursday, November 19
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre 
Kick-off: 21:45 local (20:45 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Luca Trentin (Italy)
Television match official: Carlo Damasco (Italy)