PREVIEW: Champions Cup, Round Four
PREVIEW: Champions Cup, Round FourSHARE
John Kingston’s side headline a packed Friday schedule across both the Champions and Challenge Cups as the second set of the back-to-back fixtures get underway.
Quins were downed in the snow at the Stoop by Ulster last Saturday, but get their immediate chance for revenge at the Kingspan.
There are few tougher trips than to Belfast under the Friday night lights, and Kingston has already conceded that his side are out of contention for the knockout stages in a competitive Pool One.
Ahead of the match, the Harlequins Director of Rugby said: "We were extremely disappointed to lose to Ulster at home last Sunday; ending our chances of qualification into the quarterfinals of the competition.
"That said, we are really looking forward to the match on Friday night and will be demanding a positive performance ahead of our return to the Premiership."
Quins will be without some of their international contingent, Chris Robshaw and Danny Care are suffering from head injuries while Joe Marler also picked up a knock.
Mike Brown and Tim Visser are on the bench but the likes of Marcus Smith and Jamie Roberts start in the back line and Kyle Sinckler – who scored a try against Ulster on Saturday – and skipper Dave Ward up front all start.
We take a look at all the Round Four action!
Friday, December 15:
Ulster v Harlequins
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
The clubs have met four times previously, each winning two apiece. However, Ulster's two victories have come in their most recent with Harlequins including last weekend. Ulster have scored 19 points in each of their last two home games against Premiership opposition, enough for a one-point win over Exeter and a 10 point win against Wasps. Quins have won just twice on eight previous trips to Ireland, beating Ulster in 1996/97 and Connacht in Round Two of the 2012/13 season. The last time Ulster won a Round Three game away from home they then went on to lose the reverse fixture at home in Round Four (2012/13 v Northampton Saints).
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson (captain), 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Matty Rea, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Andrew Trimble.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Dave Ward (captain) 6 Archie White, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Dino Lamb, 21 James Lang, 22 Tim Visser, 23 Mike Brown.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Cédric Clave (France)
TMO: Éric Briquet-Campin (France)
Saturday, December 16:
Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors
(Altrad Stadium, Montpellier – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UK Time; 13.00 GMT)
Glasgow have lost just one of the five previous meetings between the clubs (won three, drew one). However, that defeat was at Scotstoun in Round Three. This will be the third time Montpellier have hosted the Warriors, but they are yet to beat them at Altrad Stadium (drew one, lost one). Having won just once on their first 14 visits to France. Glasgow have now won twice on their last four excursions, including a 23-14 win over Racing 92 in their last such fixture. Glasgow are enduring their worst start to a Champions Cup campaign since losing their opening five pool games in 2012/13.
Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Gabriel N'gandebe, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Kelian Galletier, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Nicholaas Van Rensburg, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Grégory Fichten.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Julien Delannoy, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Enzo Sanga, 22 Henry Immelman, 23 Timoci Nagusa.
Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Ali Price, 8 Samu Vunisa, 7 Matt Smith, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Kiran McDonald, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Niko Matawalu.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England), Simon McConnell (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Benetton v Scarlets
(Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UK Time; 13.00 GMT)
Scarlets have won four of the previous five meetings between the clubs, scoring over 30 points in each of those four victories. Benetton are unbeaten in their last three games when they have hosted Welsh opposition, all of these games coming against Ospreys. However, Scarlets have lost their last 10 away games in the Champions Cup, but they have picked up losing bonus points in their last two such fixtures. The Welsh region are aiming to win successive games for the first time since the opening two rounds of the 2011/12 season.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Seb Negri Da Oleggio, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Nacho Brex.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Paul Asquith, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Cummins, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 John Barclay, 20 Joshua Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Richard Kerr (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs:
(Aviva Stadium, Dublin – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Last weekend, Leinster became the first side to win at Sandy Park since Bordeaux-Bègles in Round Three last season (including Premiership matches). There were just 15 points scored when the clubs last met in Dublin, only once before have Leinster played out a lower scoring game at home (9-3 v Bordeaux in 1998/99). Exeter are still searching for their first Champions Cup win in Ireland, they did however beat Connacht in the Challenge Cup in January 2015. The 2004/05 season was the last time Leinster won their opening four pool games.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Exeter: 15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Don Armand, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tom Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Tom Waldrom, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Sam Hill, 23 James Short.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Mathieu Noirot (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
Racing 92 v Castres
(Stade Yves-Du-Manoir, Colombes – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 GMT)
This will be just the second meeting between the clubs in Europe, with Castres winning the first encounter in Round Three by 16-13. Racing have won all three previous matches when hosting Top 14 opposition in the Champions Cup. Similarly, Castres have lost both of their previous two away games against French opposition, losing to Perpignan in December 2006 and Montpellier 10 years later in December 2016. Since reaching the 2016 final Racing have won just twice (lost seven) and scored an average of 15 points per match.
Racing 92: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Anthony Tuitavke, 11 Virimi Vakatawa; 10 Rémi Tales, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Leone Nakarawa, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Edwin Maka, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Boris Palu, 20 Wenceslas Lauret, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Antoine Gibert, 23 Joe Rokocoko.
Castres: 15 Julien Caminati, 14 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 Kylian Jaminet, 10 Yohan Le Bourhis, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Steve Mafi, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Yohan Montes, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Tudor Stroe.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Eric Sione, 19 Alexandre Bias, 20 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 21 Yohan Domenech, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Thomas Combezou.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Bath v Toulon
(The Recreation Ground, Bath – Kick-off: 17.30; 17.30 GMT; 18.30 France time)
Toulon have won all three matches between the clubs. However, the margin of victory has been between three and five points on each occasion. Bath have won just twice on the last seven occasions they have hosted a Top 14 side, the last team to visit being Toulon in 2015/16 (lost 14-19). Despite averaging just 14 points and only once scoring 20+ points, Toulon have still won five of eight games against Premiership opposition in England. They have both scored and conceded 114 points across those eight fixtures. Toulon have won three from three to date, but those wins have all come by fewer than five points.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Aled Brew, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael Van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jack Wilson.
Toulon: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Raphael Lakafia, 20 JP Pietersen, 21 Swan Rebbadj, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Juandre Kruger.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Sunday, December 17:
Wasps v La Rochelle
(Ricoh Arena, Coventry – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT; 14.00 France Time)
This will be the second meeting between the clubs after La Rochelle defeated Wasps 49-29 in Round Three. This was Wasps' heaviest defeat since Round Two v Leinster (41-11) in 2008/09. La Rochelle won their first Champions Cup game in England against Harlequins in Round One. Previously, they had won just one of eight Challenge Cup games on English soil. Wasps drew their last game in France (v Toulouse). Wasps have lost twice already this season, and the last time they lost three pool games in the same campaign was in the 2005/06 season.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Gaby Lovobalavu.
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Afa Amosa, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Thomas Jolmes, 4 Romain Sazy, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Jean-Victor Goillot, 22 Brock James, 23 Pierre Boudehent.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Ospreys v Northampton Saints
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Ospreys' win in Round Three ended a run of four consecutive defeats against Northampton. Each of the previous five meetings between the clubs has been decided by margins of more than 10 points. Northampton have lost their last five away games, conceding an average of 36 points and scoring an average of just 13. Ospreys have won just one of their last five home games when hosting Premiership opposition. However, that was their last such game (v Exeter in Round One, 2015/16). Ospreys are aiming to win successive matches in the same season for the first time since a run of three victories in 2009/10 (Rounds Two, Three and Four).
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Ben John, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Jeff Hassler; 10 Sam Davies, 9 Thomas Habberfield, 8 Olly Cracknell 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Ashley Beck.
Northampton: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Campese Ma'afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino (Italy), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Clermont v Saracens
(Stade Marcel-Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK Time; 15.15 GMT)
ASM Clermont Auvergne have won six of the nine meetings between the clubs, including a 46-14 victory in Round Three – Saracens heaviest European defeat. Clermont have won their two previous home games against Saracens, with both wins coming by double digit margins. In fact, the Top 14 champions have won their last 12 home games against Premiership opposition. Sale Sharks in 2008/09 were the last English club to win at Marcel-Michelin. Alivereti Raka ran in a hat-trick at Allianz Park, the first time a Clermont player has scored three tries in a match since Round Five in 2011/12 when Julien Malzieu and Sitiveni Sivivatu both crossed three times against Aironi.
Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Isaiah Toeava, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip Van Der Merwe, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Etienne Falgoux.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Viktor Kolelishvili, 21 Charly Trussardi, 22 Peter Betham, 23 Nick Abendanon.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray 7 Calum Clark, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Nathan Earle.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Leicester v Munster
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 17.30; 17.30 GMT)
Each of the last four meetings between the clubs has been won by the home side on the day with Munster's last victory at Welford Road coming in Round One, 2006/07. Tigers have lost just two of their last 36 home games, those defeats coming at the hands of Glasgow and Ulster. Munster have gone three games unbeaten on the road, they've not got on a longer such run since a run of five wins between December 2005 and January 2007. Only once in Munster's last 13 games have they conceded 20+ points (10-26 defeat to Saracens in last season's semifinal).
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni 7 Mike Williams, 6 Tino Mapapalangi, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Nick Malouf.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O'Byrne, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Brian Scott, 18 John Ryan, 19 Darren O'Shea, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Keith Earls.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Mathieu Noirot (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
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