Quins eye another big away day
April 6, 2012
Jonny Wilkinson starts for Toulon © Getty Images
Brive 15 - 11 Scarlets London Wasps 23 - 26 Biarritz Toulon 37 - 8 Harlequins Stade FranÃ§ais 22 - 17 Exeter Chiefs
The race is on for a spot in the last four of the Amlin Challenge Cup, with some of European rugby's biggest names in the quarter-final mix.
The action got underway on Thursday, when Exeter came up agonisingly short against Stade Francais in Paris, losing 22-17 thanks to Paul Williams' late try.
Reigning champions Harlequins, fresh from defeating Saracens at Wembley last weekend, face another tough away day, with Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon in wait at the Stade Mayol on Friday.
Quins dropped down from the main draw after coming up short in pursuit of Toulouse, but Conor O'Shea's side did secure a famous away victory over the French giants, putting Toulon on notice.
Both Nick Evans and Chris Robshaw miss the game due to injury, meaning a damaging reshuffle for the visitors. Luke Wallace takes over in the back-row from his captain, while Rory Clegg deputises for Evans at fly-half.
Toulon have named a formidable side, with Wilkinson joined in the backs by Wallabies centre Matt Giteau, France international Mathieu Bastareaud and France wing Alexis Palisson. Former London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage starts at openside, with Joe van Niekerk skippering the team from No.8.
Saturday's action kicks off early as Wasps welcome another of the Heineken Cup sides, French heavyweights Biarritz. With their relegation fears eased ever so slightly by last weekend's win over Gloucester, Dai Young's Wasps will hope for a morale-boosting win in a fixture that would once have been fit to headline a Heineken Cup final.
Former Scotland fullback Hugo Southwell captains a Wasps side bolstered by prolific try-scorer Christian Wade's return from injury, with six players - Wade, Elliot Daly, Charlie Davies, Joe Launchbury, Matt Everard and Sam Jones - aged 21 or under.
France No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy must make do with a spot among the Biarritz replacements, but former Premiership players Iain Balshaw and Erik Lund both start in a team that has France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili as its tactical general.
Sunday's late game sees the one Welsh side in the tournament, Nigel Davies' Scarlets, on the road to Brive at the Stade Amedee Domenech. The visitors will be keen to press on this weekend, with their Heineken Cup campaign something of a missed opportunity.
Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland is on the Scarlets' bench after resting his knee for much of this week, but the starting XV features his Grand Slam colleagues George North, Jonathan Davies and Matthew Rees, while England's Ben Morgan packs down at No.8. Brive include former England international Shane Geraghty in their side.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"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
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler