Preview: Champions Cup, Saturday

Five games are scheduled in the Champions Cup on Saturday as the action kicks off with Leinster facing Montpellier at the RDS in Dublin.

Leinster vs Montpellier

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his first Champions Cup matchday 23 of the season as they welcome Montpellier to the RDS.

In welcome news he is able to welcome back from injury captain Isa Nacewa who has recovered from a calf injury to take his place in the centre.

Otherwise, it’s the same back three that took to the field against Munster with Joey Carbery lining out at full-back for the fifth time in seven games this season, with Adam Byrne also lining out for his fifth start this term on the right wing and Barry Daly selected on the left for his European debut.

In the centre Nacewa comes in to partner Robbie Henshaw.

In the half-backs Luke McGrath is again selected at scrum-half with Ross Byrne starting at fly-half for the injured Johnny Sexton.

In the pack it’s as you were last week with Jack McGrath, James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong in the front row and Devin Toner and Scott Fardy behind them in the second row.

Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete the starting XV.

On the bench Noel Reid has recovered from injury but is otherwise joined by the same replacements that made such an impact last week at the Aviva Stadium. Ross Molony is in line to make his 50th appearance for Leinster.

Montpellier have named a strong line-up that includes Ruan Pienaar and Nemani Nadolo in their backline, with Bismarck du PLessi and Louis Picamoles spearheading their pack. Thomas Darmon is at fly-half in place of Aaron Cruden as the French side look for an opening away win.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Joey Carbery, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Isa Nacewa (c), 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

Venue: RDS
Kick-off: 13:00 BST (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Andrew Baird (Ireland)

Racing 92 vs Leicester Tigers

Racing host Leicester in their opening game at Stade Yves du Manoir as they look to kick start their campaign with a victory at home.

Juan Imhoff is at full-back alongside wings Teddy Thomas and Joe Rokocoko while Teddy Iribaren and Remi Tales form the half-back combination.

Up front Dimitri Szarzewski gets the nod at hooker and will pack down with Viliamu Afatia and Census Johnston.

Meanwhile, Graham Kitchener returns from injury as Leicester Tigers launch a 21st season of involvement in European competition.

Telusa Veainu and Ben Youngs also return for the opening fixture in Pool 4 of the European Champions Cup after their late withdrawal through illness for last week’s league win at London Irish.

Ellis Genge, Tom Youngs, Mike Williams, Luke Hamilton and Matt Smith all return to the starting line-up, while Nick Malouf makes his European Cup debut after three tries in his first six appearances for the club.

Scrum-half Ben White is included in the squad after Sam Harrison was withdrawn at half-time due to injury in the win at London Irish and back-rower Brendon O’Connor returns from a hamstring injury to join the squad for the first time since the league visit to Northampton last month.

“We made the decision to rest a couple of bodies last week because we’d had some big, physical games in the Aviva Premiership,” said head coach Matt O’Connor.

“There are a lot of quality sides in this tournament and every game is massive. You know how hard the games are going to be and how tight the pools are, which makes every game, every involvement and every point extremely important along the way.”

The teams:

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 (c), 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

Venue: Stade Yves du Manoir
Kick-off: 15:15 local (13:15 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Harlequins vs La Rochelle

There are three changes to the Harlequins starting line-up that played Sale last week in the Premiership for their clash with La Rochelle.

Mike Brown returns from injury to start at full-back and is the only change within the backline.

In the forwards James Horwill has recovered from concussion to captain the side while Ben Glynn starts in a re-shuffled back row at blindside flanker.

Glynn replaces the injured Jack Clifford who misses out after injuring his shoulder last week.

Among the replacements, summer signing Francis Saili will look to make his senior debut for the club.

Speaking ahead of the match, Director of Rugby John Kingston said: “Everyone at Harlequins has been waiting for the start of the European Rugby Champions Cup campaign from the moment we secured our place back in May.

"La Rochelle are a very impressive side and their recent record in the French domestic league speaks for itself.

"Saturday night will however, see a special atmosphere in The Stoop and all concerned can’t wait to get going."

La Rochelle name Ryan Lamb as their starting fly-half and he will run out alongside Alexis Bales in the half-backs, with Geoffrey Doumayrou and Paul Jordaan in midfield.

Victor Vito is at number eight behind a strong pack that includes Jason Eaton and Uini Atonio.

The teams:

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 (c), 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

Venue: The Stoop
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi, Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè

Bath vs Benetton Rugby

Bath have made five changes to the team that will face Benetton Rugby at the Recreation Ground.

Josh Lewis will make his first start for the club, whilst Max Clark, Nick Auterac, Tom Dunn and Luke Charteris all come into the starting line-up.

Lewis, who came on as a replacement during last weekend’s 29-13 win over Worcester Warriors, starts at fly-half and will be joined by Chris Cook in the half-back combination.

Clark returns to the side at inside centre, where he will feature alongside Jonathan Joseph. Aled Brew, who scored two tries in Saturday’s bonus-point win at the Rec, remains on the left wing, with Semesa Rokoduguni and Anthony Watson completing the back three.

In the front row, Auterac and Dunn come in for Beno Obano and Jack Walker at loosehead prop and hooker respectively, whilst Anthony Perenise continues at tighthead.

Charteris returns from his one game lay-off to join captain Charlie Ewels in the second row. The back row combination remains the same for the third successive game, with Zach Mercer, Sam Underhill and Taulupe Faletau looking to continue their rich vein of form.

Benetton Rugby will be hoping to build on their promising start to the PRO14 season when they face off with the English side.

Recent Italy call-up Ian McKinley is fly-half with Giorgio Bronzini at number nine and Alberto Sgarbi adding solidity at inside centre.

Roberto Barbieri wears number eight and is joined in the back-row by Francesco Minto and Seb Negri Da Oleggio.

The teams:

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 (c), 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

Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 17:30 BST (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens, Sam Grove-White Scotland
TMO: Neil Hennessey (Wales)

Exeter Chiefs vs Glasgow Warriors

Although Jack Nowell is missing, Exeter's backline looks largely untroubled with Phil Dollman – who came on for the injured Cornishman last weekend – recalled to the starting line-up at full-back, allowing Aussie international Lachie Turner to move to the wing.

Up front, Ben Moon comes in for Carl Rimmer in the front-row, while an training injury to Dave Dennis means he sits out the tussle. Into the back-row comes Julian Salvi at openside with Don Armand moving across into the six jersey.

On the bench, Rob Baxter will delighted to have two more of his frontline stars available again after injury. Try-scoring number eight Thomas Waldrom and wing James Short both return for the first time since breaking bones in the pre-season friendly against the Dragons.

Dave Rennie has named a settled Glasgow Warriors side ahead of his first European Rugby Champions Cup game this Saturday.

There are two changes to the starting XV that beat the Cheetahs in South Africa last Friday, as the Warriors get their European campaign underway against English champions Exeter Chiefs.

Peter Horne starts at inside centre having come on as a replacement in Bloemfontein and Lee Jones, who was rested last weekend, starts on the wing.

Ruaridh Jackson’s experience playing in the Premiership will be invaluable at full-back, while Tommy Seymour completes the back-three.

Nick Grigg is Horne’s partner in the centres while Ali Price and Finn Russell combine at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.

In an unchanged forward pack, Jamie Bhatti makes his European debut at loosehead, as does Callum Gibbins at seven.

On the bench, George Turner is another player experiencing the Champions Cup for the first time, while Niko Matawalu could feature against his former club.

The teams:

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 (c), 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 (c), 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

Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Laurent Cardona (France)
TMO: Philip Bonhoure (France)

- Team Talk Media
- Team Talk Media