Simon Zebo to face Munster, World Cup stars return

Date published: November 22 2019 - David Skippers

Seven fixtures take place on Saturday in Round Two of the European Champions Cup, starting with Saracens hosting Ospreys at Allianz Park.

Saracens v Ospreys

Saracens have made seven changes for Saturday’s visit of the Ospreys in the Champions Cup – the club’s 100th match in the tournament.

Versatile summer signing Elliot Daly will don a Sarries shirt for the first time and fellow England internationals Mako Vunipola and George Kruis return following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Captain Brad Barritt slots back into inside centre after six weeks out and he partners Duncan Taylor who has featured in the Men in Black’s previous four games.

Scrum-half Tom Whiteley makes his maiden European start and winger Alex Lewington returns to the back three with Rotimi Segun switching to the right flank.

There is a fresh look to the front-row replacements as Jamie George, Richard Barrington and Josh Ibuanokpe are selected following international duty, injury and suspension respectively while academy back-rower Andy Christie could earn a debut run out in European club rugby’s blue-riband competition.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys travel to London to take on defending champions Saracens on Saturday afternoon, and welcome back five Welsh internationals into the mix.

Owen Watkin returns in the centre, alongside young Kieran Williams, who impressed off the bench against Munster last weekend.

An unchanged backline sees Cai Evans wear the fullback jersey with Hanno Dirksen and Tom Williams on each wing. A new half-back partnership of Aled Davies and James Hook complete the starting backs.

Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Shaun Venter and Luke Price provide the cover off the bench.

Up front, Nicky Smith packs down with Scott Otten and Ma’afu Fia, with Bradley Davies and returning Adam Beard partnering in the second-row.

In the back-row, Olly Cracknell is handed the skipper role with Marvin Orie named as flanker and young Morgan Morris at number eight.

Ifan Phillips, Gareth Thomas and Tom Botha are named as replacements, with Lloyd Ashley and Sam Cross completing the Ospreys line-up.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Matt Gallagher

Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Tom Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell (c), 6 Marvin Orie, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Luke Price, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler

Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Vincent Blasco Baqué (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

Benetton v Northampton Saints

Benetton head coach Kieran Crowley has made seven changes to his starting line-up to take on Northmpton at Stadio Communale di Monigo.

In the back-line, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara and Monty Ioane replace Angelo Esposito and Luca Sperandio on the wings while Tommaso Benvenuti takes over from Alberto Sgarbi at inside centre and Tommy Allan takes over from Ian Keatley at fly-half.

Allan will also captain the side.

In the forwards, Toa Halafihi is preferred to Nasi Manu at number eight while Dean Budd is replaced by Federico Ruzza in the second-row and Federico Zani takes over from Nicola Quaglio at loosehead prop.

Meanwhile, Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd has rung the changes ahead of this fixture.

The men in Black, Green and Gold travel to Italy looking to back up an impressive 25-14 triumph over Top 14 leaders Lyon in Round One, having beaten the Treviso outfit on each of their last four meetings.

Northampton sit second in Pool One and will be desperate to consolidate their position in the group ahead of a double header against PRO14 champions Leinster in the next two rounds of the competition.

Teimana Harrison will captain Saints in Italy with Jamie Gibson starting at flanker alongside Lewis Ludlam in the only change to the back-row that started against Lyon.

But there is plenty of change in the tight five with Mikey Haywood the only survivor from last weekend; locks Alex Moon and Api Ratuniyarawa come into the engine room while Francois van Wyk and Owen Franks pack down in the front-row.

Elsewhere, World Cup winner Cobus Reinach and Wales international Dan Biggar continue in the halfback axis after impressive returns to action – with Biggar kicking 20 points from the tee last time out.

Matt Proctor comes into Saints’ midfield to join Rory Hutchinson, with Piers Francis ruled out through injury, while there are two more changes in the back three as Ollie Sleightholme and fullback Ahsee Tuala come into the starting line-up alongside Tom Collins.

Both Sleightholme and Moon are set for their Champions Cup debuts at Benetton, while Saints’ replacements boast a blend of youth an experience with the likes of Alex Waller, Fraser Dingwall, Paul Hill and George Furbank all hoping to make an impact off the bench.

The teams:

Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Nacho Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommy Allan (c), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Michele Mancini Parri, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Marco Lazzaroni, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Ian Keatley

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (c), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 George Furbank

Venue: Stadio Communale di Monigo
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dave Sutherland (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Toulouse v Connacht

Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola has made four alterations to his run-on side to face Connacht at the Stade Ernest-Wallon on Saturday.

Mola has opted to change things up after his side’s come-from-behind win at Gloucester last week with Romain Ntamack shifting to fly-half – where he replaces Zack Holmes – from inside centre with Lucas Tauzin coming in to wear the number 12 jersey.

In the forwards, Alban Placines takes over from Francois Cros in the back-row while Richie Gray replaces Florian Verhaeghe in the second-row. The final change is in the front-row where Peato Mauvaka is preferred to Julien Marchand at hooker.

Meanwhile, Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade is set to make his 100th appearance for his home province in this fixture.

The 25-year-old from Monivea picked up the Man of the Match award in the opening round win over Montpellier and he will be hoping for a repeat performance as he forms a half-back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald against the Top 14 champions.

Connacht are boosted by the return of international lock Quinn Roux who will captain the side in the absence of Jarrad Butler. Roux will line up alongside Ultan Dillane in the second-row after the latter came through the Montpellier game unscathed following a recent back injury.

In the front-row there are two changes, with Dave Heffernan coming in at hooker and Peter McCabe at loosehead prop. Dominic Robertson-McCoy is retained at tighthead with Finlay Bealham named on the bench after a two week lay-off with injury.

In the back-row, the versatile Eoghan Masterson comes in at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Robin Copeland starting again at number eight.

There is a reshuffle in the back-line, with Matt Healy at full-back in a back three that sees Kyle Godwin and John Porch on the wings, while Tom Farrell comes into the midfield alongside Tom Daly.

The teams:

Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Lucas Tauzin, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Alban Placines, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16.Julien Marchand, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Francois Cros, 22 Pita Ahki, 23 Pierre Pages

Connacht: 15 Matt Healy, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Kyle Godwin, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (c), 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Peter McCabe
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Peter Robb

Venue: Stade Ernest-Wallon
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Dean Richards (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

Lyon v Leinster

Lyon have made several alterations to the team that succumbed to Northampton Saints in the opening round of the Champions Cup.

Toby Arnold replaces Jean-Marcellin Buttin at full-back and he is joined by Xavier Mignot, who comes in for the injured Josua Tuisova, and Noa Nakaitaci in the back three.

Pierre Louis-Barassi is also on the treatment table, meaning Thibaut Regard and Charlie Ngatai line up at centre.

After impressing when coming off the bench against Northampton, Jonathan Wisniewski and Baptiste Couilloud combine at half-back.

Up front, it is a similar story with Liam Gill and Carl Fearns the only players retained in the XV. That means Xavier Chiocci, Mickael Ivaldi, Demba Bamba start in the front-row, while Virgile Bruni and Hendrik Roodt are partnered in the engine room.

Finally, the back-row sees the return of Julien Puricelli, who joins Gill and Fearns.

Meanwhile, there are a number of changes from the Leinster team that picked up a bonus-point win at the RDS Arena last weekend against Benetton.

Rob Kearney makes his first start for Leinster since returning from the Rugby World Cup, with Jordan Larmour moving to the right wing and James Lowe continuing on the left.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are paired together for the first time this season in the centre from the start, with Luke McGrath and captain Johnny Sexton continuing as the half back pairing.

In the pack, Cian Healy and Rónan Kelleher are retained from the starting XV last week, with Tadhg Furlong returning from a back injury to start at tighthead.

James Ryan is again selected in the second-row, with Scott Fardy winning his 50th cap as his partner for the trip to France.

In the back-row it’s the same two on the flanks, with Rhys Ruddock at blindside and Josh van der Flier at openside winning his 75th cap, with Max Deegan making his first European start from number eight.

Amongst the replacements the aformentioned James Tracy is in line to win his 100th cap should he be introduced.

Fianlly, Josh Murphy is in line to make his European debut off the bench. The Wexford man has 26 caps to his name already in the PRO14 but the game tomorrow is his first involvement in a European match day squad.

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Thibaut Regard, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Baptiste Couilloud (c), 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Virgile Bruni, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Jonathan Pelissie, 22 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 23 Rudi Wulf

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Dave Kearney

Venue: Matmut Stade de Gerland
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales (England), Tim Wigglesworth (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors

Not surprisingly, Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter hasn’t bothered to tinker too much with his winning formula for this clash with Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park.

Baxter makes just one change in personnel to his starting line-up after last weekend’s 31-12 away victory against La Rochelle.

Into the side comes England ace Jack Nowell in place of Welshman Alex Cuthbert on the right wing.

On the replacements bench, Sam Hill fills the void left by Nowell’s promotion.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie has also made just one alteration to the side that claimed victory over Sale Sharks last weekend, as Chris Fusaro comes into the side in place of fellow openside Callum Gibbins.

Oli Kebble once again starts alongside Scotland international duo Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson in the front-row, with the trio lining up together for the third successive match.

An impressive performance at the set-piece last weekend sees Rob Harley and Scott Cummings continue together in the second-row.

Fusaro partners captain Ryan Wilson on the flanks, as Matt Fagerson maintains his record of starting every match so far this season by lining up at number eight.

George Horne continues at scrum-half, with last weekend’s Man of the Match Adam Hastings starting at fly-half.

Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg form the midfield partnership while DTH van der Merwe and Ratu Tagive start on the wings, with Tommy Seymour once again named at full-back.

There are two changes to the replacements from last weekend’s victory – Fusaro’s inclusion in the starting XV sees Tom Gordon come onto the bench, whilst Kiran McDonald replaces Tim Swinson.

Alex Allan and D’arcy Rae once again provide cover for the starting props, whilst George Turner will wear the number 16 jersey.

Pete Horne’s experience and versatility sees him retain his place on the bench, with Ali Price and Kyle Steyn rounding out the replacements for the Scotstoun side.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Ratu Tagive, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson (c), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Kyle Steyn

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
TMO: Éric Gauzins (France)

Munster v Racing 92

The Munster team to face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup on Saturday evening at Thomond Park has been named by head coach Johann van Graan.

There are three changes to the side that defeated Ospreys last weekend as JJ Hanrahan, Tadhg Beirne and Jack O’Donoghue all come into the starting XV.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Keith Earls on either flank.

Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell continue their centre partnership with Conor Murray and Hanrahan in the half-backs.

Last week’s man of the match Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front-row.

Beirne partners Jean Kleyn in the engine room with O’Donoghue named in a back-row that also includes captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.

Alby Mathewson is among the replacements and is set to play his last game for the province.

For Racing, they have largely kept faith with the team which dominated Saracens last weekend, with former Munster stalwart Simon Zebo the only change in the backline.

The Ireland international returns to his first professional team and he is joined in the back three by Teddy Thomas and Juan Imhoff.

Elsewhere, the French outfit are without Baptiste Chouzenoux in the pack, meaning that Boris Palu switches to the back-row and Dominic Bird comes in at lock.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Fineen Wycherley, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Arno Botha

Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Boris Palu, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Yoan Tanga, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Brice Dulin

Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Greg MacDonald (England), Wayne Falla (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Harlequins v Bath

Rugby World Cup finalist Joe Marler will make his first appearance for Harlequins this season after being named as the starting loosehead prop to for their clash against Bath at Twickenham Stoop.

Scrum-half Danny Care will run out at the Stoop for the first time this campaign, having returned from injury and featuring against Clermont Auvergne last week. Italian international Michele Campagnaro makes his first start for the Quins, in what will be his second performance in front of a home crowd in South-West London.

Also in line for their first appearances of the 2019/20 season are Semi Kunatani and Paul Lasike who are two of four experienced internationals named as replacements alongside Tevita Cavubati and Santiago Garcia Botta.

Elia Elia starts at hooker with Academy player George Head confirmed at 16 and is in line to make his Harlequins debut on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Bath have also received a shot in the arm after their World Cup finalists, Francois Louw and Anthony Watson, were included in their run-on side.

Louw starts at number eight in his first appearance for the club since his triumph with the Springboks in Japan, while England international Watson lines up at full-back.

Watson will link-up with Semesa Rokoduguni and international team-mate Ruaridh McConnochie in the back three.

Max Wright comes in at inside centre joining Jonathan Joseph in the midfield, with Chris Cook coming into the fold at scrum-half. Cooks lines up in a new halfback combination, which sees Freddie Burns move from full-back to fly-half.

Lewis Boyce starts at loosehead prop against his former club, with Jack Walker and Christian Judge completing the front-row.

Charlie Ewels captains the side from the second-row alongside Josh McNally. Elliott Stooke, Josh Bayliss and Louw complete the pack for the trip to Twickenham.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 James Lang, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Lawday, 7 Will Evans, 6 Chris Robshaw (c), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 George Head, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 Paul Lasike, 23 Gabriel Ibitoye

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Wright, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Elliott Stooke, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Lewis Boyce
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Rhys Davies, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts

Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)