Champions Cup Preview: Sunday

Four Champions Cup games take place on Sunday with Leinster tackling Glasgow and Racing 92 hosting Munster just some of the action to look forward to.

Leinster v Glasgow

Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen has handed a first Champions Cup start to Jordan Larmour. The Leinster Academy back has come off the bench in both Rounds 3 and 4 against Exeter but this will be his first start at European level.

There is also a European debut for recent arrival James Lowe. The New Zealander has two tries in three games for Leinster so far but all in the PRO14. He starts on the left wing on Sunday.

Fergus McFadden who scored two tries against Ulster last Saturday in the PRO14 continues on the right wing.

In the centre with Garry Ringrose ruled out through injury, captain Isa Nacewa comes into the number 12 jersey with Robbie Henshaw moving out one to the number 13 shirt as he had done against Montpellier and Glasgow in Rounds 1 and 2.

Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton are the half back pairing.

In the pack Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin and Tadhg Furlong will start in the front row, Furlong having come through his Return to Play Protocols and having recovered from the elbow injury picked up against Ulster.

Devin Toner and Scott Fardy will start in the second row behind them.

In the back row Jordi Murphy starts at blind side flanker with Josh van der Flier at open side and Jack Conan the final name on Cullen’s list.

On the bench there is a potential Champions Cup debut for hooker Bryan Byrne, while James Ryan has recovered from injury to take his place on the bench.

Cullen also gave an update on Seán O’Brien and Adam Byrne, who had hip and knee injuries coming into the game.

Seán O’Brien saw a specialist this week for the tightness in his hip as it hadn’t responded to treatment as we would have liked. As a result he had a small procedure and the target is to have O’Brien back available during the 6 Nations window.

In addition Adam Byrne has gone through a period of rehab for a knee injury since the Guinness Series. He was not responding favourably to the conservative approach and as a result saw a specialist this week. He will have a procedure today and a return to play timeline will be formalised following his surgery.

Meanwhile, George Turner returns from suspension to start in a brand new all international front-row as Glasgow Warriors travel to the RDS Arena in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Jamie Bhatti and Siua Halanukonuka start either side of Turner and behind them Rob Harley again captains the side, shifting into the second-row alongside Greg Peterson.

It is the same back-three that started in Glagow’s 40-20 victory over Zebre with Lee Jones and Niko Matawalu playing either side of Ruaridh Jackson, who was this week named the club’s McCrea Financial Services Warrior of the Month for December.

Nick Grigg and Huw Jones remain in midfield, while Peter Horne starts at fly-half teaming up with Ali Price.

24-year old Adam Ashe is the oldest member of an exciting back-row. Matt Smith (21) and Matt Fagerson (19) completing the starting squad.

On the bench, BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 player Grant Stewart is involved in a full Warriors squad for the first time and Brandon Thomson is in line to make his European debut.

Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Dave Rennie said: “We travel to Dublin to face the best side in our pool and one of the best sides in the whole comp.

"We've had a good week training and it's an opportunity for us to show what we've learned."

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Isa Nacewa (c), 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath 
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rob Kearney

Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Matt Smith, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Rob Harley (c), 3 Siua Halanukonuka, 2 George Turner, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Henry Pyrgos

Date: Sunday January 14
Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
Television match official: Stefano Pennè (Italy)

Toulon v Benetton

Hugo Bonneval, Josua Tuisova and Chris Ashton form the back-three combination while Mathieu Bastareaud and Ma'a Nonu line up in the midfield. Anthony Belleau and Eric Escande are the half-back pairign while Duane Vermeulen, Raphael Lakafia and Facundo Isa make up the loose trio. Juandre Kruger and Roman Taofifenua lock down in the second row behind the formidable front row of Marcel Van Der Merwe, Guilhem Guirado and Florian Fresia.

Meanwhile, Benettomn have selected Luca Sperandio at full-back with Monty Ioane and Tommaso Benvenuti lining up on the wings. Luca Morisi is at outside centre while Nacho Brex is at inside centre. Ian McKinley is the starting fly-half with Edoardo Gori at scrum-half. Roberto Barbieri,Seb Negri Da Oleggio and Federico Ruzza form the loose trio while Marco Fuser and Ira Herbst are the locks. Marco Riccioni and Alberto de Marchi are the props while Hame Faiva is the hooker.

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Facundo Isa, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia,
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Francois Trinh-Duc, 21 Semi Radradra, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Jocelino Suta

Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Nacho Brex, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Seb Negri Da Oleggio, 6 Federico Ruzza, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Alberto de Marchi
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Marco Barbini, 22 Giorgio Bronzini, 23 Tommy Allan

Date: Sunday January 14
Venue: Stade Felix Mayol
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England), Paul Dix (England)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

Racing 92 v Munster

Louis Dupichot, Teddy Thomas and Virimi Vakatawa form the back three while Henry Chavancy and Marc Andreu line up in the midfield. Rémi Tales and Maxime Machenaud are the halfback combination. Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret and Yannick Nyanga make up the loose forward combination. Edwin Maka and Donnacha Ryan lock down in the second row with Ben Tameifuna, Camille Chat and Eddy Ben Arous the front row.

Meanwhile, for Munster, the latest trio to sign two-year contracts with the province, Billy Holland, Stephen Archer and Kevin O’Byrne, are all included in the squad with Holland and Archer among the starters.  

The returning duo are two of four changes to the starting XV that beat Connacht 39-13 last Saturday, with captain Peter O’Mahony and Chris Cloete also named for Sunday’s round five European clash.

Archer joins Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Marshall in the front row, as Holland resumes his partnership with Jean Kleyn in the second row.

The pack is completed with the back row of O’Mahony, Cloete and CJ Stander.

The all-international backline remains intact with Simon Zebo at fullback and Andrew Conway and Keith Earls on the wings. Rory Scannell partners Chris Farrell in midfield as Conor Murray and Ian Keatley continue as the half-backs.

Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin and John Ryan make up the front row replacements with Cronin in line for his first European involvement of the season.

Darren O’Shea and Jack O’Donoghue complete the forward reserves as Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan and Alex Wootton provide the backline cover.

The teams:

Racing 92: 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Rémi Tales, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Leone Nakarawa, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Edwin Maka, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Xavier Chauveau, 22 Benjamin Dambielle, 23 Joe Rokocoko

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O’Mahony (c), 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Alex Wootton

Date: Sunday January 14
Venue: U Arena
Kick-off: 16:15 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Roy Maybank (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

Castres v Leicester Tigers

Geoffrey Palis, Kylian Jaminet and Armand Batlle make up the back three. Thomas Combezou and Florian Vialelle are in the midfield with Benjam Urdapileta and Ludovic Radosavljevic the halfback pairing. Alex Tulou, Mathieu Babillot and Yannick Caballero form the loose trio while Thibault Lassalle and Alexandre Bias lock down in the second row. Damien Tussac, Marc-Antoine Rallier and Antoine Tichit are the front row.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers welcome back Dominic Ryan, Tom Brady and Pat Cilliers after injury.

Ryan returns to the back row and Brady starts his first game of the season after overcoming an ankle injury. South Africa international prop Cilliers joins Greg Bateman and Harry Thacker in the front row. Bateman will captain the team for the first time at the Stade Pierre Fabre.

There is a recall in the back row for Will Evans, while Sam Harrison takes over at scrum-half with Ben Youngs among the England players sitting out this weekend.

Michele Rizzo, who has been on loan with Edinburgh, returns to take a place among the replacements.

Head coach Matt O’Connor said: “It was good to get the Premiership win against London Irish last week but we were disappointed with the performance and there is plenty to work on.

“We’ve had to make some changes for this week with the England players required to rest in the build-up to the Six Nations and guys like Logo Mulipola, Manu Tuilagi and Matt Toomua all coming back into a tough schedule of games recently after significant injury absences.

“Their absence provides an opportunity for other players to go out there, put in a performance and stake their claim.”

The teams:

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Kylian Jaminet, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Mathieu Babillot, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Thibault Lassalle, 4 Alexandre Bias, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Tudor Stroe, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Victor Moreaux, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Yohan Domenech, 22 Yohan Le Bourhis, 23 Julien Dumora

Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Charlie Thacker, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Will Evans, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Greg Bateman (c)
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Ben Betts, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Nick Malouf

Date: Sunday January 14
Venue: Stade Pierre Fabre
Kick-off: 18:30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

- Team Talk Media
- Team Talk Media