Preview: Clermont v Ospreys

Date published: November 20 2015

Davit Zirakashvili returns to action for Clermont this weekend as they host the Ospreys in the Champions Cup on Sunday.

The Georgia prop has recovered from a cheek injury to start at tighthead prop.

Damien Chouly will captain les Jaunards as Camille Lopez gets the nods ahead of Brock James at fly-half.

Wesley Fofana and Aurélien Rougerie make up Clermont's midfield pairing with Nick Abendanon joined by David Strettle and Noa Nakaitaci in the back three.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys make just the one change to starting XV as Tom Grabham returns in place of Dafydd Howells, who sustained a hamstring injury in last weekend's win over Exeter

Hanno Dirksen continues on the bench after stepping in as a late replacement last weekend for Ben John, who misses the game again due to illness.

Rory Thornton in line for his European debut if he comes off the bench.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy: “It was crucial that we got the campaign off to a positive start and we did that last Sunday against a very good Exeter team. They came here full of confidence after the start they’ve had to the season and most people weren’t giving us much of a chance, but we got what we wanted from the game which is really pleasing.

“Within this environment we are always questioning each other, challenging what we do, and never more than the last month or so after what’s been a disappointing start to the season for many reasons. There’s been a lot of difficult questions asked of everybody and it’s been good to see a positive reaction.

“As pleasing as it was to get the win last Sunday in front of a noisy and passionate crowd, we aren’t falling into the trap of believing we’ve cracked it. That’s not the Ospreys way, we understand there’s a long way to go yet. Aspects of our game are going in the right direction but we have to keep working hard, day in day out, and then transfer what we do on the training ground into the match day consistently

“This weekend’s game is definitely one that will keep us grounded, if that was needed. We’re aware of how tough it’s going to be, of Clermont’s record at their ground, but these are the kinds of challenges that you have to enjoy as rugby players and coaches.

"There’s a few of the group have been there before and understand what kind of environment we are stepping into and they’ve told the rest of the squad that they should be excited about Sunday. It’s a youthful squad we’ve got but there is the experience of big games, tough environments and winning big games mixed in and that will stand us in good stead.

“We’ve prepared well this week and are heading to France confident that if we have clarity, if everybody knows their roles then we can cause them problems. Fail to hit the required standard, fall short in any area of our game, and it will be a long afternoon.”

Form: In the four matches between these clubs in the Champions Cup, each has been won by the home team (two wins each). Clermont won the last meeting between the sides and are aiming to win consecutive matches against the Ospreys for the first time in the Champions Cup. The Ospreys' two victories over Clermont are the only defeats the French side have suffered in their last 12 matches against Welsh opposition (W10). Clermont have won their last 23 games at home in the Champions Cup.

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Damien Chouly (c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Marthinius Van Der Westhuizen, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Flip Van Der Merwe, 20 Vito Kolelishvili, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic , 22 Brock James, 23 Albert Vulivuli

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James

Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Thomas Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen

Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Stade Marcel-Michelin
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)