Quins eye another big away day
April 6, 2012
Jonny Wilkinson starts for Toulon © Getty Images
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.
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy