Gloucester and Sale eye pivotal clashes
December 15, 2010
Gloucester need a big showing against La Rochelle this weekend © Getty Images
Gloucester and Sale will be hoping to avoid any French lessons this weekend as they look to further their claims for a quarter-final spot in this season's Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Cherry and Whites are back on home soil on Sunday as they take on La Rochelle, having got the better of their Pool 5 rivals 13-6 at the Stade Marcel Deflandre last weekend to move to within a point prior to their Kingsholm rematch. Brian Redpath has made six changes to his team. Freddie Burns and Charlie Sharples replace James Simpson-Daniel and Olly Morgan who both picked up knocks last week. Scott Lawson starts at hooker, Alex Brown comes in at lock and Brett Deacon and Akapusi Qera return in the back-row.
Also in Pool 5, Agen will be out to extract all five points from their tie with Rovigo - thus keeping them in the hunt for knockout rugby.
Sale suffered at the hands of Brive at the Stade Amedee Domenech last time out thanks to a double from France wing Alexis Palisson and Mike Brewer's side will be ready for further bombardment this Sunday at Edgeley Park. The Sharks are now four points behind the visitors at the top of Pool 2 and will not need their objective spelled out for them.
They have been boosted by news that Chris Jones has been passed fit despite breaking his finger in training in midweek and he takes his place on the bench. Carl Fearns, Sisa Koyamaibole and Andy Tuilagi come back into the side, while Brive have lost Palisson and have rejigged their backline as a result. Régis Lespinas comes in at centre.
In the Pool's other game Petrarca Padova are looking to stay in touch with a big win over Spanish minnows Cetransa El Salvador.
Exeter have begun to enjoy themselves in Europe but with Montpellier still in charge of Pool 3 the Chiefs need to take home the spoils from this weekend's rematch with Newcastle at Kingston Park. Last weekend's 36-10 hammering of the Falcons moved them to within three points of the leaders, who are out to complete back-to-back wins over struggling Bourgoin at the Stade Pierre Rajon on Saturday.
Alan Tait has made swingeing changes to his line-up, with twelve new faces starting. Only Kieran Brookes, Filipo Levi and Will Welch survive from last week's defeat. Phil Dollman, Andy Higgins, Bryan Rennie and Garrick Cowley come into the Exeter backline, while Chris Budgen and James Phillips start up front.
The action gots underway in Paris on Thursday, when Stade Francais extended their lead in Pool 4 with a 35-7 win over Bucuresti.
Leeds are five points off the pace in second and require all five points from their away appointment with Crociati. The English side have made four changes to their side with Mike McDonald and Paul Swainston starting at prop, Ceiron Thomas comes in at 10 and Leigh Hinton starts at fullback.
On Friday night, Harlequins travel for a tough appointment with Connacht at the Sportsground. Last weekend saw Quins pull through 20-9 at the Stoop, leaving them tied on points with Pool 1 leaders Bayonne, who are on the road to Cavalieri Prato after a big win on their own patch.
Danny Care returns for 'Quins, with Jordan Turner Hall starting in the centre. Darragh Fanning replaces Brian Tuohy on the right wing for Connacht, while Brett Wilkinson is a forced absentee as Ronan Loughney starts at prop.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in PIctures
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year