Champions Cup Preview: Sunday

Date published: October 13 2017

Four games take place in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Sunday with Toulon hosting Scarlets the pick of the action.

Castres v Munster

Castres have named Julien Dumora at full-back with Taylor Paris and David Smith on either wing while Afusipa Taumoepeau and Rober Ebersohn are the centres. Benjamin Urdapilleta and Rory Kockott form the half-back combination.

Maama Vaipulu will pack down at the back of the scrum while Steve Mafi and Yannic Caballero are the flanks. Rodrigo Capo Ortega and Loic Jacquet lock in the second row while Daniel Kotze, Jody Jenneker and Antoine Tichit form the front row.

Meanwhile, Rassie Erasmus has made five changes to the side that lost to Leinster last weekend for Munster's opening Champions Cup tie with Castres.

Simon Zebo has recovered from injury to start at full-back in three changes to the backline that also sees Darren Sweetnam named on the wing, and Rory Scannell restored to midfield alongside Chris Farrell.

The half-back pairing has a more familiar look with Tyler Bleyendaal returning to the 10 position alongside Conor Murray who continues at scrum-half.

In the forwards, Mark Flanagan has been thrown into the deep end, making his first start for the province and his Champions Cup debut.

He will pack down in the second-row alongside Billy Holland, who is the province's most capped player on the pitch.

The back-row remains the same from the loss to Leinster but in the front-row Stephen Archer comes in to join Niall Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne.

The teams: 

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Taylor Paris, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Steve Mafi, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Damien Tussac, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Armand Batlle

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Mark Flanagan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 John Ryan, 19 Robin Copeland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway

Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Stade Pierre Fabre
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Steve Lee (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)

Toulon v Scarlets

Toulon have lined up with Hugo Bonneval, Josua Tuisova and Chris Ashton as the back three. Mathieu Bastareaud and Ma'a Nonu form the midfield combination with Anthony Belleau and Eric Escande pairing up as the half-backs.

Raphael Lakafia, Facundo Isa and Juan Fernandez Lobbe make up the loose trio while Mamuka Gorgodze and Swan Rebbadj lock in the second row. Finally, Marcel van der Merwe, Guilhem Guirado and Florian Fresia make up the front row.

Meanwhile, Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has made a number of changes to the side that secured victory over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium last weekend mindful of the five-day turnaround to the second round clash against Bath at Parc y Scarlets a week today.

Leigh Halfpenny returns to the starting line-up after missing last weekend's PRO14 clash with a tight hamstring. Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans take up their places on the wings with British & Irish Lion Jonathan Davies partnering Williams in midfield. Scrum-half Aled Davies links up with Rhys Patchell at half-backs.

The front row sees Ryan Elias come in to pack down alongside props Wyn Jones and Samson Lee. The back five of Jake Ball, Lewis Rawlins, Aaron Shingler, Will Boyde and Tadhg Beirne remains unchanged.

Looking ahead to the opening round of the European Rugby Champions Cup campaign head coach Pivac said; "We really want to do well in Europe this season. It's a big start and a tough one with the five-day turnaround. We have to be smart how we manage the players this week and next.

"We learned a lot of lessons from last season, we need to look at where we have depth and use it wisely over the next few weeks.

"As a team we're obviously in better shape than where we were last year. We're clearly missing a number of big match players through players but we do think as a team we're in a better space all round. We'll be going there with one thing in mind and that is getting as many points as possible.

"They're big, they're powerful and they have a lot of talent in their squad. If you underestimate them it's at your peril, we certainly we won't be doing that. It will be a big day at the office."

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Mamuka Gorgodze, 4 Swan Rebbadj, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Rudy Gahetau, 20 Semi Radradra, 21 Francois Trinh-Duc, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Juandre Kruger

Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Joshua Macleod, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Hadleigh Parkes

Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Stade Félix Mayol
Kick-off: 16:15 local ( 15:15 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace (England), Nigel Carrick (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Northampton Saints v Saracens

There are just three changes to the Northampton Saints starting line-up from last weekend's Premiership clash with Gloucester, with Stephen Myler and Ben Foden beginning the game at fly-half and on the wing respectively with Premiership Player of the Month for September, Courtney Lawes, coming into the starting 15 also.

Nic Groom also returns to the matchday 23, starting the game on the bench, alongside Tom Wood, who is set to make his 150th appearance in a Saints shirt from amongst the replacements.

Meanwhile, fly-half Owen Farrell is back in the starting line-up for Saracens, after the England and British & Irish Lions playmaker had to sit out his side’s round six Premiership Rugby clash against Wasps last weekend.

Farrell, who has recovered from a slight calf strain, is partnered by Richard Wigglesworth in the halves for Saracens for the Pool 2 match-up with Ben Spencer and Alex Lozowski named on the bench.

Elsewhere in the Saracens backline, Brad Barritt will skipper the side from inside centre with Marcelo Bosch partnering him in a familiar midfield line-up for the Men in Black.

In the back three, Alex Goode is named at full-back with Chris Wyles (left wing) and Liam Williams (right wing) also named. Duncan Taylor is the three-quarter replacement on the bench.

Up front, fresh from a hat-trick Man of the Match performance against Wasps Jamie George continues at hooker with Mako Vunipola (loosehead) and Vincent Koch (tighthead) also named to start.

Richard Barrington and Juan Figallo are the prop replacements, with Schalk Brits named on the bench after recovering from appendix surgery.

At lock, Nick Isiekwe and George Kruis partner each other in the heart of the Saracens engine room, with Maro Itoje (blindside flanker) and Jackson Wray (No8) joining Calum Clark (openside flanker) in the Saracens back row, with Clark facing his former club for the first time since his summer move.

On the bench, Dominic Day and Schalk Burger are the lock and loose forward replacements.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Tom Collins

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Duncan Taylor

Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 17:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Éric Gauzins (France)

Ospreys v Clermont

Keelan Giles and Kieron Fonotia make their Champions Cup debuts while Scott Otten and Owen Watkin make their first Champions Cup starts.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy said: “Anyone involved in professional sport wants to test themselves up against the very best and that’s definitely what is in store for us over the next two weeks. Clermont and Saracens were the top two teams in Europe last season. That’s the size of the challenge we are up against but it’s an exciting prospect and we are really looking forward to Sunday’s game and then heading to Allianz Park next week.

“We’ve got a good record at the Liberty against French sides. We’ve gone up against some outstanding teams here over the years and beaten some top sides including Clermont. It’s important that we go into this game believing in ourselves, we want to make sure that we kick-off the campaign positively.

“There have been some fantastic European occasions at the Liberty, none more than the last time we played Clermont last year when we had a famous win, to make it three from three in that season’s competition. Hopefully we’ll have another great occasion, one to remember, and the team and supporters can feed off each other to help to create the kind of special atmosphere that European nights are all about.”

Meanwhile, Clermont have lined up with Scott Spedding, David Strettle and Alivereti Raka as the back three. Damian Penaud and Remi Lamerat pair up in the midfield while Camille Lopez and Morgan Parra form the half-back combination. Fritz Lee is at number eight with Alexandre Lapandry and Judicaël Cancoriet flanking either side of the scrum.

Sébastien Vahaamahina and Paul Jedrasiak lock down in the second row while Rabah Slimani, Benjamin Kayser and Raphael Chaume scrum down in the front row.

The French side will be looking to bounce back from last year's 28-17 final defeat to Saracens, while Ospreys will be aiming to take maximum points from the pool stages like they did in the Challenge Cup 12 months ago.

The clubs have met six times previously, the home side on the day winning each of the six encounters.

Clermont have won six of their last seven games against Welsh opposition, although the one defeat in that run did come in their most recent such fixture against the Ospreys in Round 5 of the 2015/16 season.

Ospreys' Keelan Giles made 16 clean breaks in the Challenge Cup last season, more than any other player. He was also the top try scorer (7).

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Cory Allen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 James Hook

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Benjamin Kayser 1 Raphael Chaume
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Peter Betham

Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 17:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)