Metro and Exiles playing for pride
December 9, 2011
Tom Homer's kicking will be vital to the hopes of London Irish © Getty Images
Racing Metro and London Irish meet on Saturday with both sides looking to secure their first win of this season's Heineken Cup campaign.
Racing, who are in only their second season in the Heineken Cup, were left stunned by Edinburgh as the Scottish side came from 44-20 down to claim a 48-47 victory at Murrayfield. That followed a 26-20 defeat to Cardiff Blues on the opening day of the competition.
London Irish also endured the heartache of a one-point defeat to a resurgent Edinburgh as they lost 20-19 to them on the opening day of the season. And they suffered another narrow defeat as they lost 24-18 to Cardiff Blues last time out to leave them at the foot of Pool two, despite picking up two losing bonus points.
Racing Metro - Player to Watch: The immensely gifted Juan Martin Hernandez starts at fly-half for Racing Metro and will be hoping for an open game to showcase his skill in. The Pumas back can unlock defences with ease though has been blighted by injury in recent times.
Racing Metro - Team News: Gaetan Germain is given the fullback spot with Sereli Bobo and Juan Imhoff on the wings. Former Exeter Chiefs back Josh Matavesi starts at inside centre alongside Virimi Takatawa. The mercurial Juan Martin Hernandez is given the fly-half spot with Mathieu Loree at scrum-half. Julien Brugnaut, Thomas Bianchin and Juan Pablo Orlandi start in the front-row with Lionel Nallet and Jone Qovu Nailiko in the locks. Antoine Batut, Bernard Le Roux and Jacques Cronje are the chosen back-row combination.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Delon Armitage is back for London Irish and with a new coaching team in place at the national team, he will aim to show the selectors that he has the temperament to play on the international stage after his recent spat with ill-discipline.
London Irish - Team News: Delon Armitage starts at fullback with Bob Casey making his return after recovering from an injury sustained pre-season - he comes in on the bench. Paul Hodgson will be aiming to rack up his 200th appearance for the Exiles if he takes to the pitch from the bench on Saturday. Dan Bowden starts at fly-half alongside Darren Allinson while Joe Ansbro and Jonathan Spratt start in the centres. Topsy Ojo and Adam Thompstone are given the wing berths. Clarke Dermody returns to the starting lineup as captain, with Darren Allinson at scrum-half. Bryn Evans will join Matt Garvey in the second row. Ofisa Treviranus also starts in the pack alongside Declan Danaher and Chris Hala'ufia. David Paice comes in as hooker.
Key Battle: Joe Ansbro is faced with Josh Matavesi - usually a fly-half - in the centres and both are still on the younger side when it comes to age. With Heineken Cup games won and lost by the smallest of margins, both youngsters will aim to prove they have old heads on their shoulders come Saturday.
Trivia: Racing Metro have won one and lost one against English opposition in the Heineken Cup
Stats: London Irish fullback Tom Homer is third equal on the goal kicking charts so far this season with 11 successful strikes at goal
"They [Racing] are busy rehabilitating him. He has already regained full use of his shoulder and doesn't feel any pain. So things are at this stage developing better that what we initially expected."
"The potential we have at the club is massive and I am excited that I can be a part of it over the next few seasons. I still have ambitions to be involved in the England set up and believe London Irish is the best place to make this happen."
Prediction: Racing Metro will come away with the win but will find it tough going
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action