Preview: Champions Cup, Friday

Date published: December 6 2018

Two matches are on the Champions Cup schedule on Friday with Scarlets hosting Ulster and Edinburgh facing Newcastle Falcons at Murrayfield.

Scarlets v Ulster

Scarlets have been boosted by the return of flanker James Davies from injury, who has recovered from a knee problem sustained in September.

Samson Lee is also recalled to the starting line-up to face Ulster on Friday after missing Wales’ November campaign with a hamstring issue.

However, fellow internationals Leigh Halfpenny and Jake Ball are out with concussion, with Johnny McNicholl and Lewis Rawlins taking their place in the XV at full-back and lock respectively.

Meanwhile, Ireland stars Iain Henderson and Will Addison have returned to the Ulster team for Friday’s crucial Heineken Champions Cup Round 3 clash.

Fellow internationals Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale, as well as Abbey Insurance Academy prop Eric O’Sullivan, are also included in the starting XV after featuring off the bench in the home win versus Cardiff Blues on Saturday.

Best, who will equal Andrew Trimble’s club record of 71 European appearances, will captain the side in Llanelli and will be joined in the front-row by O’Sullivan and Marty Moore.

Henderson will partner Kieran Treadwell, Ulster’s try-scorer against the Blues last week, in the second-row, while the loose forward trio of Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee is unchanged.

John Cooney and Billy Burns are retained in the half-back positions, with Stuart McCloskey and Addison paired in midfield. Stockdale’s inclusion on the left wing results in Louis Ludik shifting to full-back, as Henry Speight is again named on the right flank.

Kyle McCall could make his 50th Ulster appearance, his first since April, after recovering from injury and being selected among the replacements.

Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea and Nick Timoney will provide additional forward cover. Dave Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips and Darren Cave are the backline options.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 James Davies, 6 Will Boyde, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Hadleigh Parkes

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Will Addison, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Matt Rea, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Darren Cave

Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
Television match official: Stefano Pennè (Italy)

Edinburgh v Newcastle Falcons

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has welcomed back 10 internationalists to his starting XV for this pivotal encounter at Murrayfield.

Scotland stars Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, Henry Pyrgos, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson all return to action following the end-of-year internationals, whilst number eight Bill Mata also gets the nod after helping Fiji to a famous win over France two weeks ago.

As the capital side look to keep up their 100 percent home record this season so far, the team selection includes 13 changes from the side that faced Munster last weekend.

South African duo Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe – who grabbed a brace of tries at Irish Independent Park – are the only players to retain their positions in the starting line-up.

Kinghorn is named at full-back after starting on the wing in Scotland’s 14-9 win over Argentina two weeks ago whilst Van der Merwe is selected on the wing alongside Graham – a try scorer in his last two games for the capital side.

A fresh centre pairing sees Chris Dean – an unused substitute in last weekend’s PRO14 loss to Munster – return to the starting XV alongside James Johnstone. Van der Walt keeps his place at fly-half and is partnered by 27-times capped Scotland international Pyrgos at scrum-half.

An all-action front-row sees captain McInally named at hooker alongside Pierre Schoeman – who makes his Champions Cup debut – and experienced tighthead, Nel. Gilchrist returns to partner Toolis in the second-row.

In the back-row, Mata – twice a try-scorer in his last run out against Scarlets – is selected at number eight alongside returning Scotland back-row duo Ritchie and Watson.

Meanwhile, Ryan Burrows captains Newcastle Falcons as they aim to build on their position at the top of Champions Cup Pool Five.

The Falcons have won both of their group games in Europe’s top-tier competition after defeating Toulon and Montpellier, Friday’s trip to Murrayfield coming in a run which has seen just one defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions.

Adam Radwan starts on the left wing after being the top try-scorer in last season’s Challenge Cup, centre Chris Harris featuring at the venue where he played two of Scotland’s autumn internationals.

Brett Connon starts at fly-half having landed a long-range penalty in an impressive cameo from the bench during last weekend’s victory at Northampton, Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua partnering him in the half-backs.

Adam Brocklebank and George McGuigan come into the front-row after impressing from the bench last weekend, Fiji lock Tevita Cavubati drafted in less than a fortnight after starting for his national team in their historic victory over France.

Gary Graham returns to Murrayfield having trained there with the Scotland squad during their recent autumn tests, Callum Chick starting at number eight having scored the dramatic winning try during the Falcons’ Champions Cup victory over Montpellier.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Bill Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman
16 David Cherry, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Juan Pablo Socino

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pedro Bettencourt, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Tane Takulua, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Ryan Burrows (c), 5 Glen Young, 4 Tex Cavubati, 3 David Wilson, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Adam Brocklebank
16 Santi Socino, 17 Trevor Davison, 18 Sami Mavinga, 19 Calum Green, 20 Simon Uzokwe, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Johnny Williams

Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Cédric Marchat (France)
Television match official: Éric Briquet-Campin (France)