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Challenge Cup, Round One - Teams and Predictions

PREVIEW: Three South African teams are in action in the European Challenge Cup this weekend with the Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs geared to face some top quality sides.

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The Cheetahs probably have the highest mountain to climb after a long absence in top class action. While the other two teams both have eight games under their belt in the United Rugby Championship, the Free Staters only had some warm-up games as preparation to face the might of Europe.

Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie said not having enough pre-season games to prepare will might not hinder his side as they will be well rested.

“We did have very little game time to prepare. The other teams have all had eight games in the URC while playing against the Griffons and Lions,” the coach said.

“That is the big difference but on the other hand we are fresh and well rested. I doubt that will hinder us. If our attitude is right, we will perform well on Saturday.”

*The Sharks, coming off a run of losses in the URC having only won a single game thus far, are banking on their Springbok muscle to get them back to winning ways.

Sharks attack coach David Williams indicated that the new faces coming into the side would add some much energy.

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“Each week we reward performance and reward guys who have come back from injury and worked hard so in terms of the team we put out for this weekend, we back those guys to deliver.

“The URC is a great competition, but the Challenge Cup, playing different opposition, so I think everyone is looking forward to the new jersey the guys are going to play in, so it’s just an exciting afternoon,” he said.

“Pau is a real strong team in all areas of the game but we’ve found areas that we think we can target. Traditionally the French teams have great flare and we are a team that would like to play in a destructed environment.

“We can see huge growth in our performance and it is just about finding that consistency and I think freshening up the side with the four new guys will be a lot of energy. It’s a reward for them on how they have trained and recovered from their injuries.”

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*Lions forwards coach Julian Redelinghuys talked about the European competition and how it is still a relatively new experience for them.

“The EPCR is quite new for us, not new because we experienced it last year, but in Super Rugby we never had a competition in a competition. So last week we played in the URC and this week our focus shifts to EPCR and the same with next week.

“And there’s only four pool games then you are into the round of 16 so it is a different kind of competition to what we are used to. But we quite enjoyed it. Last year was a good experience, unfortunately we fell out in the quarterfinals but it is a competition that we enjoy,” Redelinghuys says.

“What is nice is playing against a French team, we’ve seen what their set-pieces are like, especially when it gets to scrum time. If you have a look at the Top 14 games, it’s interesting to watch how they go about it. Obviously they really pride themselves and they’ve got heavy packs.

“I think the pack we are playing against this weekend, depending on who they pick, is over a ton. But I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that we are traveling with this weekend.

“I think with any French team, they pride themselves on set-piece. I think Perpignan will do well at home, they pick strong sides for home games.

“What is also interesting is you don’t know how the French teams are going to play in the EPCR. We are still learning about the French way of thinking, we are still figuring out how they go about things.

“We are expecting a tough set-piece battle from them, expecting physicality from them, they’ve got a couple of massive carriers. But we are looking forward to seeing how our guys are going to step up.”

*Dragons captain Steff Hughes is hoping that his side’s EPCR Challenge opener against Oyonnax will change the Welsh region’s fortunes.

“Europe has always been something we have targeted and hopefully this will give us an opportunity to get some momentum going into the Christmas derby games,” Hughes said.

“Our attack has been good at times in South Africa; we’ve had the mindset to try and move the ball and it’s something we will continue to work hard on.

“We won’t be playing in these conditions next weekend, it will be a lot colder, so we will have to adjust the weather and Oyonnax. We’ll back ourselves in attack, we just need to be more accurate.”

*Scarlets will hope their return to form in the URC last weekend augurs well.

“I’m confident in this group,” said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel. “We’re working hard behind the scenes. We’ve had some tough places to go in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been to South Africa, Dublin and we’ve obviously been to the Liberty.

“We’ve had a lot of away games and we’re away again (against Castres). I think it’s the fourth game in a row we’ll be away. We’ve been on the road a bit, so it’s making sure that we’re right and when we do get back to Parc y Scarlets, we’re right for that as well.”

All Saturday and Sunday’s teams and predictions follow below…

Black Lion v Gloucester
(Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi – Kick-off 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Gloucester by 25 points

Black Lion: 15 Luka Tsirekidze, 14 Akaki Tabutsadze, 13 Giorgi Kveseladze, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Luka Matkava, 9 Tengiz Peranidze, 8 Ilia Spanderashvili, 7 Sandro Mamamtavrishvili, 6 Luka Ivanishvili, 5 Mikheil Babunashvili, 4 Nodar Cheishvili, 3 Giorgi Chkhartishvili, 2 Irakli Kvatadze, 1 Dato Abdushelishvili
Replacements: 16 Beka Mamrikashvili, 17 Aliko Shamilishvili, 18 Bachuki Tchumbadze, 19 Demuri Epremidze, 20 Giorgi Kervalishvili, 21 Giorgi Margalitadze, 22 Tornike Kakhoidze, 23 Miriani Modebadze

Gloucester: 15 Jacob Morris, 14 Alex Hearle, 13 Louis Hillman-Cooper, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ben Donnell, 7 Harry Taylor, 6 Freddie Thomas, 5 Cameron Jordan, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Arthur Clark, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Josh Hathaway

Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant referees: Elgan Williams, Tom Spurrier
TMO: Sean Brickell

Zebre v Cheetahs
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by ten points

Zebre: 15 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Franco Smith, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Tiff Eden, 9 Alessandro Fusco, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Jacopo Bianchi, 6 Giacomo Ferrari, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Dave Sisi, 3 Juan-Manuel Pitinari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Giampietro Ribaldi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Guido Volpi, 20 Taina Fox-Matamua, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Jake Polledri

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Siba Xamlashe, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 10 George Lourens, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandrè Rudolph, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Laurence Victor, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Sibabalo Qoma, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Ali Mgijima

Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant referees: Sara Cox, Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Dean Richards.

Sharks v Section Paloise
( Kings Park, Durban, Kick-off 17.15; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Sharks by five points

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Corne Rahl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Daniel Jooste, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Lionel Cronje, 23 Ethan Hooker

Section Paloise: 15 Thomas Carol, 14 Aminiasi Tuimaba, 13 Samuel Ezeala, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Gregoire Arfeuil, 10 Axel Desperes, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 Thibaut Hamonou, 7 Martin Puech, 6 Mehdi Tlili, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Guillaume Ducat, 3 Nicolas Corato, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Paul Tailhades
Replacements: 16 Youri Delhommel, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Ziggy Fisi’ihoi, 19 Brent Liufau, 20 Josselin Bouhier, 21 Thomas Souverbie, 22 Thibault Debaes, 23 Nathan Decron

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley, Simon Harding
TMO: Ian Tempest

Castres v Scarlets
(Stade Pierre-Fabre, Castres – Kick-off 17.15; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Castres by seven points

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Josaia Raisuqe, 13 Adrien Seguret, 12 Vilimoni Botitu, 11 Antoine Bouzerand, 10 Louis le Brun, 9 Jeremy Fernandez, 8 Abraham Papalii, 7 Baptiste Cope, 6 Romain Macurdy, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Florent Vanverberghe, 3 Aurelien Azar, 2 Gaetan Barlot, 1 Wayan de Benedittis
Replacements: 16 Pierre Colonna, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 Yann Peysson, 21 Gauthier Doubrere, 22 Pierre Popelin, 23 Theo Chabouni

Scarlets: 15 Tom Rogers, 14 Steff Evans, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 6 Ben Williams, 5 Jac Price, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Joe Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Steff Thomas
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Sam O’Connor, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Ed Scragg, 20 Iwan Shenton, 21 Archie Hughes, 22 Charlie Titcombe, 23 Ioan Nicholas

Referee: Nika Amashukeli
Assistant referees: Shota Tevzadze, Saba Abulashvili
TMO: Matteo Liperini

Ospreys v Benetton
(Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off 19.30; 17:30 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Benetton by nine points

Ospreys: 15 Iestyn Hopkins, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Rhys Davies, 5 Adam Beard, 4 James Fender, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Dewi Lake, 1. Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Ben Warren, 19 Harri Deaves, 20 Tristan Davies, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Jack Walsh, 23 Mat Protheroe

Benetton: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Nacho Brex, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Sebastian Negri da Ollegio, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1. Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Riccardo Favretto, 21 Toa Halafihi, 22 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 23 Leonardo Marin

Referee: Ludovic Cayre
Assistant referees: Pierre Bru, Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy
TMO: Patrick Dellac

Dragons v Oyonnax
(Rodney Parade, New Port – Kick-off 22.00; 20.00 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Oyonnax by 12 points

Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Steff Hughes, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Harri Keddie, 6 Ryan Woodman, 5 George Nott, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Brodie Coghlan, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 George Young, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Harri Ackerman, 23 Corey Baldwin

Oyonnax: 15 Maxime Salles, 14 Souleymane Coulibaly, 13 Leo Treilles, 12 Pedro Bettencourt, 11 Joe Ravouvou, 10 Jules Soulan, 9 Charlie Cassang, 8 Loic Godener, 7 Hugo Hermet, 6 Filimo Taofifenua, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Victor Lebas, 3 Irakli Mirtskhulava, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Julien Ratajczak, 17 Adrien Bordenave, 18 Antonin Corso, 19 Ewan Johnson, 20 Ilan El Khattabi, 21 David Odiase, 22 Alexis Pisani, 23 Thibault Berthaud

Referee: Eoghan Cross
Assistant referee: Keane Davison, Tomas O’Sullivan
TMO: Mark Patton

Perpignan v Lions
(Stade Aime Giral, Perpignan – Kick-off 15.00; 13.00 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Perpignan by 15 points

USAP: 15 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 14 Lucas Dubois, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Freddy Duguivalu, 11 Louis Dupichot, 10 Alexandre Perez, 9 Matteo Rodor, 8 Ewan Bertheau, 7 Alan Brazo, 6 Jaco van Tonder, 5 Shahn Eru, 4 Tristan Labouteley, 3 Nemo Roelofse, 2 Victor Montgaillard, 1 Sacha Lotrian,
Replacements: 16 Vakhtang Jincharadze, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Akato Fakatika, 19 Lucas Bachelier, 20 Valentin Moro, 21 Tom Ecochard, 22 Eddie Sawailau, 23 Boris Goutard

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Zander du Plessis, 11 Bodwin Hansen, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Nico Steyn, 8 Hanru Sirgel, 7 Ruhan Straeuli, 6 JC Pretorius, 5 Raynard Roets, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Jaco Visagie (captain), 1 Corne Fourie
Replacements: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Izan Esterhuizen, 20 Travis Gordon, 21 Johan Mulder, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Rynhardt Jonker/Sibusiso Sangweni

Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Alex Thomas (Eng), Neil Chivers
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Newcastle Falcons v Montpellier
(Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne – Kick-off 17.15; 15.15 GMT)

Prediction:
@rugby365com: Montpellier by 11 points

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Ben Redshaw, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Ollie Spencer, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Rory Jennings, 9 James Elliott, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Freddie Lockwood, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 John Hawkins, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Phil Brantingham
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Ollie Leatherbarrow, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Louie Johnson, 23 Zach Kerr

Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 George Bridge, 13 Thomas Darmon, 12 Auguste Cadot, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Leo Coly, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Alex Becognee, 6 Clement Doumenc, 5 Tyler DuGuid, 4 Marco Tauleigne, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Vano Karkadze, 1 Gregory Fichten
Replacements: 16 Adrien Sonzogni, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Bastien Chalureau, 20 Cantin Foguet, 21 Louis Foursans-Bourdette, 22 Masi Dakuwaqa, 23 Pierre Lucas

Referee: Sam Grove-White
Assistant referees: Hollie Davidson, Ruairidh Campbell
TMO: Andrew McMenemy

Additional source @EPCR

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