Revenge on the menu in Europe
December 15, 2009
Leinster will be out to kick on at home to the Scarlets © Getty Images
It's all set to kick-off again in the Heineken Cup as Europe's best gear-up for the return bouts following a thrilling round of action last weekend.
Clermont swap snowy Montferrand for Leicester and Welford Road on Saturday in our Game of the Week from Pool 3, with last weekend's showdown at the Stade Marcel Michelin having gone down to the wire. Clermont hold the advantage but will need to be on their toes against a Tigers side not renowned for rolling over at home.
The Pool's other game sees the Ospreys out for back-to-back bonus points against Viadana as they return to the Liberty Stadium. Sean Holley has taken no chances with his Ospreys side, naming an identical XV to the one that put 60 points on their opponents last weekend. Tommy Bowe has been cleared to start on the wing after a citing against him for a dangerous tackle did not result in a ban.
The weekend's action was meant to kick off on Friday evening but Newport Gwent Dragons' clash with Biarritz was put back until Saturday afternoon because of a partially frozen pitch at Rodney Parade, with the game also being switched to Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.
Dragons boss Paul Turner spoke of 'over-confidence' in his Dragons side after their humbling Pool 2 defeat in Basque country last weekend and he will be hoping for a far more dogged display on Welsh soil.
Turner has made seven changes to his starting line up with Steve Jones coming in at hooker to captain the side. Danny Lee starts at scrum-half, while Ali McKenzie, Hoani McDonald and Joe Bearman are promoted from the bench. Biarritz have named an either or on the right wing with Ilikena Bolakoro and Paul Couet-Lannes both named with Takudzwa Ngwenya absent. Nicolas Brusque replaces Iain Balshaw at full-back and Romain Terrain and Campbell Johnstone come into the front row.
Bryan Redpath's Gloucester, are in the same boat as the Dragons as they return to Kingsholm a week on from their comprehensive 33-11 hammering by Glasgow at Firhill. Glasgow boss Sean Lineen has lost winger Thom Evans to injury, calling in Canadian international DTH van der Merwe and Dave McCall out wide. Richie Vernon starts at No.8, with Johnnie Beattie forced to make do with a place among the replacements.
Paul Doran-Jones replaces All Black Greg Somerville in the Gloucester front-row, with Akapusi Qera returning on the openside. Tim Molenaar starts alongside James Simpson-Daniel in the centre and Olly Morgan and Tom Voyce are drafted into the back-three.
Northampton travel to Italy after seeing off a determined Benetton Treviso at Franklin's Gardens to remain in with a shout in Pool 1. Dylan Hartley will make his 100th Saints appearance at hooker while the Italians have made two changes to their backline, bringing in Emiliano Mulieri on the wing and Simon Picone at scrum-half.
The other game in the Pool sees Munster travelling in search of vital points against Perpignan at their fortress, the Stade Aime Giral, following the narrowest of victories at Thomond Park.
Munster boss Tony McGahan has stuck to his guns for a tough away trip, calling on the same XV that started in Limerick last weekend. Ronan O'Gara was the hero at home and he will need to have his wits about him in one of Europe's most volatile atmospheres.
As for the hosts, Philip Burger has been rewarded for his wonder try at Thomond with a start at full-back at the expense of Jerome Porical, who drops to the bench. Also in the backs, David Mele has gotten the nod at scrum-half ahead of Nicolas Durand. In the pack, Perry Freshwater and Guilhem Guirado make way for Jerome Schuster and Marius Tincu in the front row, while Ovidiu Tonita has been preferred to Yannick Parent at No.8.
Cardiff Blues have a similarly mountainous task as they look to follow up a drab home victory over Toulouse in Bordeaux. Dai Young has been forced to make one change, with Tom James out injured, and he will be replaced by Richard Mustoe.
Toulouse chief Guy Noves has shuffled his starting line-up, with Frederic Michalak shifting to scrum-half and David Skrela wearing No.10. Clément Poitrenaud starts at fullback in one of two changes to the back-three, with Yves Donguy replacing Cedric Heymans on the wing. Jean Bouilhou starts in the back-row, with Louis Picamoles shifting to No.8 and Thierry Dusautoir moving onto the openside.
Sale will look for back-to-back bonus-points against a struggling Harlequins at Edgeley Park in Pool 5's second game. Aston Croall, Tani Fuga and Mark Lambert all return to the Quins starting line-up and Tom Guest replaces Chris Robshaw in the back-row. Sale boss Kingsley Jones has named an unchanged backline for the game but has been able to recall Dean Schofield and Chris Jones as his second-row pairing.
Reigning champions Leinster burst the Scarlets' bubble in style at Parc y Scarlets last weekend and will be brimming with confidence after a complete attacking display secured a vital away bonus-point in Pool 6.
All of last weekend's try scorers start in an unchanged Leinster XV with Shane Horgan, Gordon D'Arcy, Shaun Berne and Sean O'Brien all out for more of the same in front of their home fans. The Scarlets will have a stern test of their new promise and resolve and have called in a second kicking option at fullback with Rhys Priestland replacing Daniel Evans. Jonathan Edwards replaces Richie Pugh on the openside.
London Irish are also out for back-to-back bonus points after thumping Brive in France, with the Scarlets now in a difficult spot. The Exiles have been boosted by the return of England fullback Delon Armitage on the bench, with Chris Malone again entrusted with the playmaking duties.
Jamie Noon and Steve Thompson start from Brive's English contingent, with Shaun Perry named on the bench. Luciano Orqera starts at fly-half while French international Nicolas Jeanjean is in at fullback.
Controversy has surrounded Stade Francais this week after Julien Dupuy and David Attoub were cited for alleged gouges on Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris at Ravenhill last time out and there will be no shortage of spice as the Irish province look for points at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels that could help them towards a quarter-final berth.
Dupuy has been hit with a six-month ban so his season is over, while Attoub's case was adjourned for a second time on Friday afternoon so he has been left out of the squad. Elssewhere, England flanker James Haskell has also lost his starting place, to Italian Mauro Bergamasco. Pierre Rabadan starts in place of Bergamasco on the openside. Julien Arias also displaces an Englishman, starting ahead of Sevens specialist Ollie Phillips, and Noel Oelschig takes over at scrum-half from Dupuy.
Ulster have been boosted by the return of BJ Botha at tight-head and Paddy Wallace in the centre. Timoci Nagusa returns on the wing, allowing Andrew Trimble to shift to No.13. Willie Faloon replaces David Pollock on the openside, with Ferris again starting at No.6.
In the Pool's other game, Edinburgh have a chance to avenge their narrow defeat by Bath at the Rec.
The Scots have Ross Rennie available once more, and the flanker goes straight into the starting line up. Ally Hogg is out for the season, allowing David Callam a chance at making his second appearance. Bath boss Steve Meehan has retained his starting XV from last weekend, with the superb Luke Watson again starting at No.8.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring