Battle of the leaders at Castres
December 9, 2009
Dan Ward-Smith powers Wasps forward during the last round of action © Getty Images
Liam Bibo Danny Cipriani Felipe Contepomi Chris Fortey David Lemi Tom May George Naoupu George Skivington Jonny Wilkinson Sonny Bill Williams
The European Challenge Cup is back this weekend, with the round headlined by a meeting between the teams at the top of the table in England and France.
Castres are the surprise leaders of the Top 14 after 15 games, having routed Toulouse in recent weeks, and they welcome Saracens to the Stade Pierre Antoine in our Game of the Week.
The other game in Pool 5 is on Saturday, when Petrarca Padova welcome Albi, fresh from victory over Biarritz, to the Stadio Plebiscito. The French side have looked to make changes from that team, with Blair Stewart and Uipa Sua amongst those to come into the team.
As Castres and Saracens battle it out, Toulon will be hopeful of taking further control at the top of Pool 3 with the visit of Italian side Rovigo to the Stade Felix Mayol. The French side are without Jonny Wilkinson, but he'll be ably replaced at out-half by Felipe Contepomi. Phillip Saint Andre has named Tom May and Sonny Bill WIlliams in the centre, while Matt Henjak is recalled at scrum-half. Friday's other game sees Montpellier and Spanish side Olympus Madrid face-off in Pool 2.
Wasps host Bayonne at Adams Park on Saturday. The London side are level on points with their visitors, with both sides unbeaten heading in to the third round of action in Pool 4. Tony Hanks makes four changes to the side that beat Leicester last weekend with David Lemi restored to the side. England trio Danny Cipriani, Simon Shaw and Paul Sackey make do with spots on the bench, with George Skivington starting in the second row.
Leeds have made 14 changes to their team for their trip to Romania to face Bucuresti Oaks in Pool 1 with only No.8 Rhys Oakley surviving, while table-topping Bourgoin welcome David Janin back to their injury hit team for their trip to Overmach Parma.
Mike Ruddock's Worcester are three points behind their visitors Connacht at the top of Pool 2. Michael Bradley makes two changes to his backrow with Liam Bibo replacing the injured Johnny O'Connor and George Naoupu coming in at No.8. Scottish international Scott Grove returns to the Warriors side, with Chris Fortey replacing Aleki Lutui at hooker.
The round concludes with Racing Metro's home tie with Rugby Roma in Pool 4. The French side are flying high in third place in the Top 14 but have lost both of their European encounters so far.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
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