Amlin Challenge Cup - Round 2
Stade set for Headingley welcome
October 13, 2010
Stade Francais, and centre Martin Rodriguez, will arrive at Headingley on Sunday © Getty Images
Round two of the Amlin Challenge Cup sees Michael Cheika take his star-studded Stade Francais side to Headingley on Sunday, where Leeds will hope for a morale-boosting upset to kick-start their season.
Stade coasted to a 57-6 victory over Crociati Rugby last weekend, while Leeds toiled in Romania, needing a late surge to see off Bucuresti Oaks 23-9. As for the team news, the visitors make four changes in personnel. Hugo Southwell drops out so Martin Rodriguez switches to fullback, creating space for Julien Arias on the right wing. Elsewhere in the back-line, Noel Oelschig is moved to fly-half to facilitate the inclusion of Benjamin Tardy at scrum-half. Jules Plisson, who wore ten last week, will start at inside centre. Up front, Damien Weber takes over from Rodrigo Roncero at loose-head, while Mauro Bergamasco makes way for Antoine Burban at blindside flanker. Bergamasco has been included on a stellar replacements' bench which also features James Haskell, Lionel Beauxis and Mathieu Bastareaud.
The hosts, meanwhile, are buoyed by the return of hooker Steve Thompson, openside flanker Hendre Fourie and Marco Wentzel, who will skipper the side from the second-row. Lachlan MacKay will make his first appearance in a Leeds shirt since the opening weekend of the season, with the Aussie having been selected at fly-half.
The round begins on Thursday, when Newcastle travel to France for a tough Pool 3 tie against Montpellier, who disappointed Exeter at Sandy Park in the opening round. Falcons boss Alan Tait has named a young side for the game, including England Under-18 fly-half Joel Hodgson. He replaces injured pivot Jeremy Manning, while Scotland centre Andy Henderson, Chris Pilgrim, Kieran Brookes and Redford Pennycook are all handed starts.
Exeter are also on the road, travelling to face Bourgoin at the Stade Pierre Rajon on Friday. The Chiefs have named a strong side for the game, with accurate fly-half Gareth Steenson joined in the starting line-up by club captain Tom Hayes, fullback Luke Arscott, wing Mark Foster and centre Phil Dollman.
Bourgoin, meanwhile, welcome back scrum-half Mickael Forrest, who will captain the side. The only other change to the back-line which took to the field to face Newcastle at Kingston Park last weekend sees David Janin return in midfield at the expense of Piet van Zyl. There are wholesale changes to the pack, though, with Erwan Iapteff, Tone Kopelani, Stephane Bougherara, Camille Levast and Yann Labrit all earning recalls. In a positional change, Thomas Genevois has been moved from No.8 to lock.
Last season's beaten semi-finalists Connacht were embarrassed in week one by Cavalieri Prato, but are back on home soil this week as they take on Bayonne at the Sportsground. The Westerners fared well against French opposition last season but face a stern test against an improving Bayonne side, who accounted for Harlequins in torrential conditions to get their campaign off and running. Ian Keatley and Frank Murphy are at halfback for Eric Elwood's side, while Ireland international forwards John Muldoon and Sean Cronin both start.
Bayonne have changed their half-back pairing for the game in Galway, with Sebastien Fauque and Julien Audy replacing Benjamin Boyet and Cedric Garcia at ten and nine, respectively. Wing Yoann Huget and centre Thibault Lacroix have also been selected to start. As for the pack, Pierre-Philippe Lafond and Arnaud Heguy come into the front row, while Julien Puricelli, who has been entrusted with the captain's armband, and Remy Martin are the chosen flankers.
Harlequins are back at the Stoop in round two to face the aforementioned Cavalieri Prato and director of rugby Conor O'Shea has made wholesale changes to the side beaten in Bayonne last weekend.
Behind the scrum there are starts for the 19-year-old Ross Chisholm, at fullback, wing Tom Williams, fly-half Rory Clegg and scrum-half Karl Dickson. In the pack, Ceri Jones, Joe Gray and James Johnston form a revamped front row, the fit-again George Robson joins Peter Browne in the second row, while Tom Guest has been switched to No.8, where he will be flanked by Tomas Vallejos and Will Skinner, who has been named as captain.
Gloucester tasted defeat to Agen last time out but have a more palatable fixture in round two, welcoming Italian minnows Rovigo to Kingsholm. Freddie Burns, 20, will start at fly-half for the Cherry and Whites, and he will have another 20-year-old outside him, Jonny May. Elsewhere in the back-line, there are recalls for James Simpson-Daniel and Lesley Vainikolo on the wings. In the pack, Alex Brown comes into the second row, while there are recalls for Alasdair Strokosch and Andrew Hazell return at blindside and openside flanker, respectively.
Sale also face Italian opposition and travel to face Petrarca Padova no doubt confident of picking up another bonus-point victory on the back of their demolition of Centransa El Salvador last weekend. The great news for the Sharks is that England international Mathew Tait has been cleared to make his first appearance of the season having finally completed his rehabilitation after knee surgery. " I am very keen to make up for lost time," he said. "The knee operation was to clean out some debris and I feel great now and can't wait to get a good run of games playing for Sale Sharks under my belt."
Tait is not the only change to the Sale back-line, with both fullback Paul Williams and wing Mark Cueto also having been recalled. The pack has also been strengthened by the addition of hooker Neil Briggs, who will act as captain, tight-head prop Karena Wihongi, lock Nic Rouse and flanker Carl Fearns.
Elsewhere, Agen take on fellow Top 14 strugglers La Rochelle on Saturday, while Bucuresti host Crociati and Brive are on the road to Cetransa El Salvador.
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