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Thu 12 Oct 2017 | 09:24

Preview: Champions Cup, Round One

Champions Cup 2017/18 Season Preview
Thu 12 Oct 2017 | 09:24

Preview: Champions Cup, Round One


Ulster and Wasps get this season's competition underway on Friday night before the champions make their bow on Sunday away to domestic rivals Northampton.

The two sides met on the opening day of the Premiership season with Sarries running in nine tries in a 55-24 thrashing at Twickenham, and that without Farrell.

As well as the half-back, South African forwards Schalk Burger and Schalk Brits could also return from injuries.

"Owen has trained for two days and is fine. Schalk Burger and Schalk Brits have a chance of being available," Saracens' Director of Rugby Mark McCall said.

"For Brits, it will be soon after having his appendix out, so that would be a decent turnaround. He trained [on Wednesday] and if he has no reaction he has a great chance of being involved."

Saracens not only defended their title last season but also set a new record of 18 European matches in a row unbeaten as they defeated Clermont, the French champions, 28-17 in the Edinburgh final.

The north Londoners already look to have hit their stride this season, despite the absence of key players such as Farrell and England No.8 Billy Vunipola, out until the new year with a knee injury.

Getting off to a good start will be vital in a pool that includes Clermont – beaten finalists in three of the last five years – and Ospreys.

With such fierce opposition, it could be one of the groups whose runners-up fail to make the knock-out stages.

Clermont begins their campaign in Wales looking to end a run of four straight defeats on their travels this season.

And they are unlikely to be able to welcome back France centre Wesley Fofana for the trip to Swansea.

But coach Franck Azema was feeling positive despite Sunday's 28-18 defeat at Toulouse.

"I think we're on the right track. It will do us good to start the European Cup with an away match and knowing that every point counts," he said.

Both Sarries and Clermont played on Sunday, as did Wasps – thumped 38-19 by the European champions – who start their campaign on Friday night with a tough trip to Belfast.

It means they have a five-day turnaround, something McCall described as "grossly unfair".

On top of that, Wasps are missing 15 players through injury, including fly-half Danny Cipriani and No.8 Nathan Hughes.

"It's not ideal by any stretch of the imagination," Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young told BBC Radio 5 live.

"There is very little we can do about it. We've known for a number of weeks what was the case, and we've just got to get on with it."

Wasps have had a poor start to the season, losing four matches in a row but their pool does appear one of the less tricky ones, with French debutants La Rochelle and Harlequins, who have been an English mid-table side for last few seasons.

And this is still the side that topped the regular Premiership standings last season, before losing to Exeter in the Final.

English champions Exeter have not excelled in Europe so far, but will be expecting to finally make their mark, albeit in what appears a tough pool alongside Leinster, Glasgow and Montpellier.

Three-time champions Toulon look to have drawn the long straw in a pool alongside Bath, Scarlets and Italians Treviso.

It may be the last time an Italian team is seen in the Champions Cup for some time with qualification rules changing for next season, based solely on final league positions and not on nationality.

Since the Champions Cup was reduced from 24 to 20 teams, no Italian side has qualified through merit.

Friday, October 13

Pool One

Ulster v Wasps
(Kingspan Stadium – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)

Wasps have won five of the six meetings between the clubs, however, they've not met in Europe since the 2001/02 season.

Ulster's victory against Wasps in 2001/02 was their first against Premiership opposition in Europe. Including that match, Ulster has won 13 of their last 17 games against English opposition at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster had the best line-out success rate in the competition last season with 96 percent.

Only Leinster (31) scored more tries in the pool stage last season than Premiership runners-up Wasps (28).

Wasps' Ashley Johnson and Ulster's Iain Henderson were two of just four players to make 50+ carries and 50+ tackles in last season's pool stage, along with Jonny Gray (Glasgow) and Remi Lamerat (Clermont).

Prediction: At Kingspan, only the foolhardy would bet against Ulster. We say by at least 10 points.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Matty Rea, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Pete Nelson, 23 Tommy Bowe.

Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain) 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Marcus Watson.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Saturday, October 14

Pool Three

Leinster v Montpellier
(RDS Arena – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 GMT; 13.00 French time)

This will be the fifth meeting between the clubs.

Leinster have lost just one of the previous four, and won both previous home games against the 2016 Challenge Cup winners.

Leinster and Montpellier met in the pool stage last season with the home team on the day winning each encounter.

Leinster's 57-3 home win over the TOP 14 side was their second biggest in Europe (92-17 v Bourgoin in 2004/05).

Leinster's next try will be their 400th in the Champions Cup, a tally only Toulouse (452), Munster (412) and Leicester Tigers (410) have reached.

Leinster averaged more carries per game than any other side last season (149) and beat the most defenders per game of any side (27).

Montpellier's Nemani Nadolo made 14 clean breaks in the pool stage last season; no player made more – level with David Smith (Castres) and Wesley Fofana (Clermont).

Prediction: Of course Montpellier can win, but we wouldn't even put one beer's worth of money on it. Leinster by 12 points.


Leinster: 15 Joey Carbery, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Isa Nacewa (captain), 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Fergus McFadden.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Joseph Tomane, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Thomas Darmon, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Kelian Galletier, 5 Nicholaas Van Rensburg, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Julien Delannoy, 20 Wiaan Liebenberg, 21 Benoit Paillaugue, 22 Timoci Nagusa, 23 Joffrey Michel.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Pool Four

Racing 92 v Leicester Tigers
(Stade Yves-Du-Manoir – Kick-off: 16.15; 14.15 GMT; 15.15 UK time)

The clubs have met three times previously with each of those encounters coming in the previous two seasons. Racing 92 won the 2016 semifinal at the City Ground, while the sides shared one win apiece during last season's pool stage.

The most recent meeting saw Leicester suffer their heaviest defeat against TOP 14 opposition, and their fifth heaviest overall (34-3).

Racing 92 have won three of their last four home games against Premiership opposition, this after losing their first four games when hosting English sides in the competition.

Racing's Brice Dulin made 23/23 tackles in last season's pool stage, the most of any back to not miss a single attempt.

Prediction: Now here is an intriguing match, even though Leicester are not on top form. They will run the French team close before Racing win by seven points.


Racing 92: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Viliamu Afatia.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Edwin Maka, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Patrick Lambie, 23 Anthony Tuitavke.

Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Luke Hamilton, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Ben White, .22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

Pool One

Harlequins v La Rochelle
(The Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 17.30; 18.30 French time; 16.30 GMT)

This will be the first meeting between the clubs.

La Rochelle is making their Champions Cup debut, becoming the 21st TOP 14 side to participate in the tournament.

Harlequins have won seven of their last nine games against TOP 14 opposition in the Champions Cup, losing only to ASM Clermont Auvergne (twice) in that run.

La Rochelle has faced Premiership opposition on 17 occasions in the Challenge Cup, winning just five of those matches.

La Rochelle averaged 10 missed tackles per game in the Challenge Cup last season, fewer than any other side.

La Rochelle's Kini Murimurivalu made 88 carries in last season's Challenge Cup, only Worcester's Matt Cox (100) made more.

Prediction: This is our pick for an upset, with La Rochelle's massive pack to help them edge ahead and win by nine points.


Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Ben Glynn, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 Archie White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Francis Saili.

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Zeno Kieft, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Mike Corbel, 18 Vincent Pelo, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Afa Amosa, 21 Jean-Victor Goillot, 22 Pierre Aguillon, 23 Gabriel Lacroix.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)

Pool Five

Bath v Benetton
(The Recreation Ground – Kick-off: 17.30; 18.309 Italian time; 16.30 GMT)

This will be the fourth meeting between the sides with Bath winning two of the previous three games.

This will be their first encounter since the 2004/05 season.

Bath's defeat to Benetton in 2004/05 was their only loss to Italian opposition in Europe (including Challenge Cup) They've won 16 of 17 such games overall, including six of seven in the Champions Cup.

Benetton won their first away game against Premiership opposition in the European Cup, in November 1999 (v Harlequins). However, they've lost on all 14 trips to England since.

Bath have lost their last four pool games – they've never lost five in a row at this stage.

Semesa Rokoduguni averaged 5.7 defenders beaten per game in last season's Challenge Cup, more than any other player to have played more than once.

Prediction: One-way traffic – Bath by plenty, at least 20 points.


Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels (captain), 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Phillips, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Jack Wilson, 23 Darren Allinson.

Benetton Rugby: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Nacho Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Giorgio Bronzini, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Seb Negri Da Oleggio, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Andrea Bronzini.

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Sam Grove White (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)

Pool Three

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)

This will be the third meeting between the clubs in Europe after they clashed in the 2013/14 pool stage.

Glasgow won both previous meetings, although Exeter claimed a losing bonus point on each occasion.

Glasgow has won just two of their 19 games away to Premiership opposition. However, both those victories have come in their last five trips to England.

Exeter has a 50 percent win rate against Pro14 opposition in the Champions Cup, with four of their six victories coming at Sandy Park.

During last season's pool stage, Exeter averaged 19 minutes and 36 seconds in possession per game – the most of any club.

The two top tacklers in last season's pool stage were both Glasgow players – Jonny Gray made the most (76), while Ryan Wilson made the second most (70).

Prediction: Even with New Zealander Dave Rennie as coach, Glasgow will struggle to beat the Premiership champions. Exeter Chiefs by 15 points.


Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Tom Hendrickson, 23 James Short.

Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 Niko Matawalu.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Laurent Cardona (France)
TMO: Philip Bonhoure (France)

Sunday, October 15

Pool Four

Castres Olympique v Munster
(Stade Pierre Fabre – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UK time; 12.00 GMT)

This will be the 13th meeting between Castres and Munster in the European Cup, the most played fixture in the competition's history (currently level with Edinburgh v Toulouse on 12).

Munster have won nine of their previous 12 games against Castres, only two sides have beaten another team as often in the Champions Cup – Leicester Tigers (won 10 v Benetton) and Toulouse (won 10 v Edinburgh).

Castres are without a win in their last 10 games against Irish opposition, although they picked up a draw in their most recent such encounter against Leinster last season.

Munster conceded an average of just 13.3 points and 0.9 tries per game in the Champions Cup last season, fewer than any other side.

Munster's Billy Holland made 57/57 tackles last season, the most of any player to not miss a single attempt.

Prediction: The bookmakers may have Munster as favourites, but at home French teams are always much tougher and we feel Castres will win by about eight points.


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 (captain), 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.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Steve Lee (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Pool Five

RC Toulon v Scarlets
(Stade Félix Mayol – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 14.15 GMT)

The clubs have met four times previously in the Champions Cup with RC Toulon winning three of those games, although Scarlets won the most recent encounter.

Toulon has won 20 of their 21 home games in the Champions Cup, losing only to Saracens at Stade Félix Mayol in their opening game last season.

Scarlets have lost their last nine away games in the Champions Cup. However, their last away victory came in France against Racing 92 in the 2013/14 pool stage.

Scarlets averaged 136 tackles per game in the Champions Cup last season, more than any other side.

Of players to attempt 20+ kicks at goal in the competition last season, Rhys Patchell had the best success rate with 91 percent (21/23).

Prediction: Tough test for Scarlets and we think Toulon have the firepower to win by at least 10 points.


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.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace (England), Nigel Carrick (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Pool Two

Northampton Saints v Saracens
(Franklin's Gardens – Kick-off: 17.30; 16.30 GMT)

This will be the second meeting between the sides in the Champions Cup and the third in Europe overall. Both previous European encounters came in the knockout stage with Northampton winning a Challenge Cup semifinal in 2009 before Saracens had their revenge in the 2016 Champions Cup quarterfinal.

Saracens are unbeaten in their last 18 games; only Scarlets managed to avoid defeat to the reigning champions during that run.

Saints have lost just one of their last six home games; their four wins in that run all came by no more than seven points.

Saracens have won back-to-back titles, and to date, only RC Toulon have managed to win the tournament three seasons in a row (2013, 2014 and 2015).

Owen Farrell – last season's top scorer (126) and EPCR European Player of the Year-needs just four points to reach 600 in the Champions Cup; only Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones, Dimitri Yachvili and Diego Dominguez have scored more.

Prediction: Our match of the weekend, with the smart money on a Saracens win – by 12 points.


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 (captain), 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.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Pool Two

Ospreys v ASM Clermont Auvergne
(Liberty Stadium – Kick-off: 17.30; 16.30 UK time; 15.30 GMT)

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

The Ospreys have won their last three home games in the Champions Cup – the last time they went on a longer such run was between 2007 to 2011.

Clermont has won six of their last seven games against Welsh opposition, although their one defeat in that run did come in their most recent such fixture against the Ospreys in January 2016.

Clermont's next try will be their 300th in the Champions Cup; they scored 33 last season, the highest total by the club in a single campaign.

Osprey's Dan Biggar is just three points away from becoming the 10th player to score 500 points in the European Cup.

Prediction: Nobody is giving Ospreys a chance and with good reason. Clermont should start with an away win – by 15 points.


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 (captain), 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.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

@ChampionsCup & AFP


PV: 7
Preview: Champions Cup, Round One | Rugby365