Preview: Champions Cup, Saturday

Date published: October 12 2018

Five matches are on the Champions Cup schedule on Saturday and the action kicks off with Bath hosting Toulouse at the Recreation Ground.

Bath v Toulouse

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder has named a strong matchday squad to face the French giants this weekend.

Rhys Priestland captains the side at fly-half and will feature alongside Chris Cook in the half-back pairing. Jamie Roberts returns to action at inside centre, with the 31-year-old partnering Jackson Willison in the midfield.

Fresh from agreeing a new contract with the club, Semesa Rokoduguni starts on the right wing, with Darren Atkins on the other flank. Freddie Burns continues at full-back, as Bath face Toulouse for the first time since 2014.

Nathan Catt, Tom Dunn and Henry Thomas form an experienced front-row, with Dave Attwood and Luke Charteris in the second-row.

Tom Ellis switches from openside to blindside, whilst Francois Louw returns from international duty to wear the number seven jersey. Zach Mercer starts at number eight to complete the pack.

Meanwhile, Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola has made five changes, including a positional switch, to his run-on side after last weekend’s victory over Agen.

In the backline, Cheslin Kolbe returns from Springbok duty and slots in on the right wing, where he replaces Yoann Huget, while Maxime Médard moves from full-back to the left wing in place of Arthur Bonneval with Thomas Ramos wearing the number 15 jersey.

In the forwards, Joe Tekori comes in for Richie Gray at lock while Leonardo Ghiraldini and Lucas Pointud are preferred to Julien Marchand and Clement Castets at hooker and loosehead prop respectively.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Darren Atkins, 10 Rhys Priestland (c), 9 Chris Cook, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Max Green, 22 Max Wright, 23 Tom Homer

Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Francois Cros (c), 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Lucas Pointud
16 Julien Marchand, 17 Clément Castets, 18 Maks Van Dyk, 19 Pierre Gayraud, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Louis Madaule, 22 Antoine Dupont, 23 Romain Ntamack

Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 13:00 BST (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Montpellier v Edinburgh

Ruan Pienaar lines up for Montpellier at fly-half for their game against Edinburgh on Saturday at the GGL Stadium.

The French outfit have suffered a crisis in the pivot position, with Aaron Cruden and Johan Goosen currently out of action. Former South African international Pienaar therefore shifts across, with Enzo Sanga taking his place at scrum-half.

Vern Cotter is also without star player Nemani Nadolo, which means Gabriel Ngandebe and Benjamin Fall start on the wings, and Henry Immelman is at full-back.

In the pack, the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, are in the front-row, while Louis Picamoles captains the side from number eight.

Meanwhile, Scotland star Matt Scott has been named in the Edinburgh backline for his side’s first Heineken Champions Cup fixture in four years.

Edinburgh face former Scotland coach Cotter’s Montpellier side in their first Pool 5 encounter.

The Edinburgh team selection sees three changes – two of those in the back division – with Scott named in midfield and Dougie Fife selected on the wing in the place of the injured Duhan van der Merwe.

Head coach Richard Cockerill makes just one alteration to the pack as Allan Dell – making his 50th appearance for the club – is selected at loosehead prop.

The teams:

Montpellier: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Gabriel Ngandebe, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Enzo Sanga, 8 Louis Picamoles (c), 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Vincent Giudicelli, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Antoine Guillamon, 19 Kevin Kornath, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Yvan Reilhac, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Dougie Fife, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Chris Dean

Venue: GGL Stadium
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew O’Grady (England), Paul Dix (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

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Exeter Chiefs v Munster

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter has kept changes to a minimum after their triumph over Bath at the Reacreation Ground last weekend.

The sole change sees Ian Whitten promoted from the bench to partner Henry Slade in the centre. Sam Hill comes in on the bench to provide midfield back-up. The back three comprises Phil Dollman at full-back while Jack Nowell and Santiago Cordero line up on the wings.

In midfield, Henry Slade starts at outside centre with Ian Whitten inside him while Gareth Steenson and Stuart Townsend are the half-back pairing. In the pack, Matt Kvesic starts at number eight with Don Armand and Dave Ewers the two flankers while Sam Skinner and Dave Dennis pack down in the second-row.

Luke Cowan-Dickie starts at hooker while Ben Moon and Harry Williams are the two props.

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Johann van Grann has made several changes to the side that were edged out by Leinster in the PRO14 at the Aviva Stadium last weekend.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway moving to the right wing and Keith Earls retaining his place on the left flank to make his 155th appearance for the province.

Rory Scannell comes into the back-line at inside centre to partner Dan Goggin in midfield who makes his Champions Cup debut.

The half-back pairing sees Duncan Williams start at scrum-half alongside Joey Carbery who maintains his place at fly-half.

There is an unchanged front-row with Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer packing down.

Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne continue their partnership in the second-row.

Chris Cloete is the only change to the pack with captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander making up the back-row.

Neil Cronin is in line to make his return from injury off the replacements bench, which includes Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, JJ Hanrahan and Sammy Arnold.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Sammy Arnold

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:15 BST (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
Television match official: Éric Briquet-Campin (France)

Scarlets v Racing 92

Angus O’Brien will start for the Scarlets against Racing 92 on Saturday after Rhys Patchell was ruled out of the tie.

Patchell, who starred in last season’s competition, suffered delayed concussion symptoms following the knock he took versus the Ospreys in the PRO14. O’Brien is chosen ahead of Dan Jones, who is among the replacements.

There is positive news for the Welsh region, however, with Jonathan Davies making a welcome return to the team after and the Wales star partners fellow international Hadleigh Parkes in midfield.

Elsewhere, the pack remains unchanged but Rob Evans comes back into the squad after recovering from a shoulder injury.

For Racing, Simon Zebo and Finn Russell are set to make their Champions Cup debuts for the French club on Saturday.

They have both been in impressive form in the Top 14 since moving from Munster and Glasgow Warriors respectively and will look to make a similar impact in Europe.

Olivier Klemenczak is preferred to Virimi Vakatawa at centre, while up front, Leone Nakarawa and Donnacha Ryan form an imposing second-row pairing.

At the back of the scrum, Wenceslas Lauret and Baptiste Chouzenoux are at flanker with Antonie Claassen taking the number eight slot.

The teams:

Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Joshua Macleod, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Paul Asquith

Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Olivier Klemenczak, 12 Henry Chavancy (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Guram Gogichashvili
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Virimi Vakatawa

Venue: Parc y Scarlets
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Jonathan Healy (England)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

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Ulster v Leicester Tigers

Ulster have been boosted by the return of five players ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup fixture against Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

Craig Gilroy, Jordi Murphy, Will Addison, Michael Lowry and Marty Moore are all included in the matchday 23 after overcoming their respective injuries.

Lowry, a member of the academy, and Marcell Coetzee are set to make their European debuts after being named in the starting XV at full-back and blindside flanker respectively.

Murphy, Addison, Moore, if used off the bench, and Billy Burns will make their Champions Cup debuts for Ulster, having previously represented other clubs in the competition.

Rory Best will skipper the side from hooker and will pack down in the front-row alongside Ross Kane and Andy Warwick. Coetzee and Murphy will combine in an explosive back-row that also features Nick Timoney, while Iain Henderson and Al O’Connor are paired together in the second-row.

John Cooney and Burns will operate in the half-back positions, with the in-form Stuart McCloskey partnering Addison in midfield. Jacob Stockdale joins Lowry and Gilroy in the back three.

Meanwhile, Leicester welcome international duo Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau back into the matchday squad for the team’s opening game in the Champions Cup.

Toomua and Polota-Nau return after international duty with Australia and are included among the replacements as Tigers interim head coach Geordan Murphy makes just two changes to the starting line-up.

Jonny May misses out with the shoulder injury suffered in the win over Northampton Saints at Twickenham last Saturday, giving Jordan Olowofela an opportunity on the wing, and there is a change in the forward pack where David Denton is ruled out and Brendon O’Connor returns.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Will Addison, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Ross Kane, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Andrew Warwick
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 Angus Kernohan

Leicester Tigers: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Guy Thompson, 5 Harry Wells, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 David Fe’ao, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Sam Lewis, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Gareth Owen

Venue: Kingspan Stadium
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
Television match official: Eric Gauzins (France)