Fri 8 Apr 2022 | 03:38

Champions Cup - Teams and Predictions

Champions Cup - Teams and Predictions
Fri 8 Apr 2022 | 03:38
Champions Cup - Teams and Predictions

ROUND OF 16  PREVIEW: European Champions Cup’s knockout stage gets underway this weekend with the opening ties of the two-legged Round of 16, and there are a plethora of enticing matchups on the schedule.


The pool stage was again disrupted by Covid.

That led to a string of cancellations, two of which involved Toulouse who were so aggrieved by the decision to award Cardiff a walkover that they are taking European Professional Club Rugby to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

To squeeze in more matches, organisers have adopted a two-legged knockout format, but only for the round-of-16 which opens with Connacht hosting Leinster on Friday. The quarter-finals and semi-finals will both be a single leg.

Kicking the action off on Saturday is a Premiership tie between Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears along with an all-Top 14 contest between Union Bordeaux-Bègles versus Stade Rochelais at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.

Champions Cup holders Stade Toulousain get their Round of 16 tie with Ulster Rugby as the two European rivals meet for a 12th time on the grandest stage.

FRIDAY’S PREVIEW: Connacth v Leinster 

Exeter Chiefs host Munster Rugby at Sandy Park in a battle of former champions – Exeter the 2020 winners, Munster two-time victors with wins in 2006 and 2008.

Stade Français Paris and Racing 92 collide once more, at the Stade Jean Bouin – a week after the sides met in the TOP 14. Racing topped Pool A with four wins from four and will be eager to maintain their form into the knockout stage.


Two games follow on Sunday, when Montpellier Hérault Rugby and ASM Clermont Auvergne host Premiership opposition in the form of Harlequins and Leicester Tigers respectively.

Montpellier host Harlequins at the GGL Stadium as the Premiership champions continue their bid for a maiden Champions Cup.

Leicester, who topped Pool B, travel to the Stade Marcel-Michelin to take on Clermont in the final game of this weekend’s slate.

Clubs go into the first legs this weekend wrestling with what tactics to use.


“We’re preparing for the win,” Ulster lock Alan O’Connor told the competition website.

But, he added, “if there’s a situation late on when we have to be smart and go for points in the last five minutes, who knows? We will be thinking about that.”

Henry Chavancy, a centre for Racing 92 who face Parisian rivals Stade Francais, told AFP he is sceptical.

“I like the straight knockout matches because there is a bit more smell of blood. They are exciting matches.”

The grudge game in France is between Bordeaux Begles and last year’s losing finalists La Rochelle, which is the second leg of a tripleheader. Already familiarity is breeding contempt.

Last Saturday, as La Rochelle won 16-15 in Bordeaux to vault past the hosts into second in the Top 14, the two coaches had a confrontation on the sidelines at Stade Chaban Delmas.

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 ‘We do not respect each other’

Bordeaux-Begles coach Christophe Urios, angry at the noisy antics of La Rochelle’s Ronan O’Gara, walked up to the Irishman for a nose-to-nose exchange of opinions.

“That bloke is insufferable,” Urios said after the game.

Urios also made clear that he enjoyed stoking the rivalry with the club 175 kilometres up the Atlantic coast.

“For me, rugby is this,” he said. “It’s the battle of the villages, even if they are big cities”.

“I like when we are different, that sometimes we do not respect each other.”

Reigning champions Toulouse meanwhile host Ulster feeling the matchup with a former champion is another way they have been treated unfairly.

Toulouse have won the last 10 European games they have played, yet only finished seventh in their qualifying pool because two of their matches were called off and awarded to their opponents.

That left them facing Ulster who were second in their pool.

Toulouse president Didier Lacroix says that while his anger has cooled, “I remain firmly convinced that the match against Cardiff should not have been cancelled.”

He said the decision was bad not only for Toulouse but for the competition which will next season include South African clubs qualified through the United Rugby Championship.

“The competition is struggling in some countries and in some cities and needs to be revived but not with inconsistencies like the ones we have experienced,” he told AFP.

Lacroix said he was unhappy because he believed the organisers had failed to follow their own Covid rules, because Toulouse had lost gate money and because they had been handed a worse draw. Toulouse have beaten Ulster only five times in 11 European meetings.

“As long as we are alive, there is a way to fight to defend our title,” he said.

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Saturday, April 9

Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Rochelais
(Stade Chaban-Delmas, France – Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 GMT)


@rugby365com: Bordeaux  by five points


Bordeaux: 15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Cameron Woki, 5 Louis Picamoles, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Maxime Lamothe, 1 Jefferson Poirot (captain)
Replacements: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Thierry Paiva, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Jandré Marais, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Matéo Garcia, 23 Jean-Baptiste Dubié

La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Jules Favre, 13 Jérémy Sinzelle, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (captain), 7 Victor Vito, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Guram Papidze, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Remi Bourdeau, 21 Thomas Berjon, 22 Pierre Popelin, 23 Levani Botia

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England) & Phil Watters (England)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

Sale Sharks v Bristol Bears
(AJ Bell Stadium, United Kingdom – Kick-off: 13.00; 12.00 GMT)



@rugby365com: Sale Sharks by five points


Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Jack Metcalf, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Aaron Reed, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jono Ross (captain), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jacobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Matthew Postlethwaite, 20 Tommy Taylor, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Simon Hammersley

Bristol Bears: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Jack Bates, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Jeffries, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Joe Joyce (captain), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Jake Woolmore
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Semi Radradra, 23 Charles Piutau

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France) & Jonathan Dufort (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

Stade Toulousain v Ulster
(Le Stadium, France – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 14.15 GMT)


@rugby365com:  Toulouse by three points


Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Juan Cruz Mallía, 13 Zack Holmes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Francois Cros, 7 Thibaud Flament, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Rodrigue Neti
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Cramont, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Alban Placines, 22 Martin Page Relo, 23 Sofiane Guitoune

Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Ben Moxham, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Marcus Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (c), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Rob Lyttle

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England) & Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

Exeter Chiefs v Munster
(Sandy Park, Exeter – Kick-off: 17.30; 15.30 GMT)


@rugby365com:  Exeter Chiefs by four points


Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Sam Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Patrick Schickerling, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Josh Hodge

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Alex Kendellen, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (c), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Thomas Ahern, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Jack O’Sullivan

Referees: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant Referees: Luc Ramos (France) & Flavien Hourquet (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)

Stade Francais v Racing 92
(Stade Jean-Bouin, France – Kick-off: 18.30; 16.30 GMT)


@rugby365com:  Racing 92 by seven points


Stade Francais: 15 Léo Barre, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Harry Glover, 12 Alex Arrate, 11 Lester Etien, 10 Joris Segonds, 9 Arthur Coville, 8 Tala Gray, 7 Romain Briatte, 6 Sekou Macalou, 5 Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 4 Paul Gabrillagues (captain), 3 Nemo Roelofse, 2 Laurent Panis, 1 Clément Castets
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Charlie Francoz, 20 Loic Godener, 21 James Hall, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Kylan Hamdaoui

Racing 92: 15 Max Spring, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Henry Chavancy (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Ibrahim Diallo, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Guram Gogichashvili
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Boris Palu, 20 Luke Jones, 21 Antoine Gibert, 22 Olivier Klemenczak, 23 Louis Dupichot

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

Sunday, April 10

Montpellier v Harlequins
(GGL Stadium, MOntpellier – Kick-off: 14.00, 13:00 UK Time, 12.00 GMT)


@rugby365com:  Montpellier  by ten points


Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Thomas Darmon, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Gabriel N’gandebe, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Kelian Galletier, 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse (captain), 4 Bastien Chalureau, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Enzo Forletta
Replacements: 16 Vincent Giudicelli, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 20 Gela Aprasidze, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Julien Tisseron, 23 Florian Verhaeghe

Harlequins: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Tom Lawday, 6 George Hammond, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Matas Jurevicius, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Nick David

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

Clermont v Leicester Tigers
(Stade Marcel-Michelin, Clertmont – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 14.15 GMT)


@rugby365com:  Clermont by three points


Clermont: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Alivereti Raka, 13 George Moala, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Cheik Tiberghien, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Fischer, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina (captain), 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Giorgi Beria
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Cristian Ojovan, 19 Miles Amatosero, 20 Lucas Dessaigne, 21 Kevin Viallard, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Marvin O’Connor

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Calum Green, 4 Ollie Chessum, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Ellis Genge (captain)
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Matías Moroni

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Peter Martin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)



PV: 53