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Champions Cup, Round Four - teams and predictions

FRIDAY PREVIEW: Kyle Steyn leads a classy Glasgow Warriors outfit in their Champions Cup Round Four fixture against Toulon on Friday with 11 internationals in the line-up.

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Steyn and Jack Dempsey return to action after recovering from their respective injuries. Both are amongst the 15 Warriors selected in the Scotland squad for the 2024 Six Nations.

Dempsey’s return at No. 8 is the only change in the back row, with Ally Miller and Matt Fagerson continuing after impressive performances from last weekend.

Glasgow Warriors defence coach Pete Murchie has admitted this game is a “winner takes all” as both clubs seek qualification for the knockout stage from Pool Three.

“We know what we need to do to qualify for the next round. Hopefully, it’s a big occasion and we get a good crowd creating a buzz on a Friday night. We want to make it one of those special European nights.”

The clash between Connacht and the Bristol Bears will be a tasty occasion, especially as Bristol Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam will be returning to a scene of his former glories, along with former Sportsground favourites Kieran Marmion, AJ MacGinty and Jake Heenan.

Furthermore, Connacht forwards coach John Muldoon will come up against the club where he began his coaching career – as will lock Joe Joyce, who spent nine years at Ashton Gate.

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Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins told the Irish Sun: “We are looking forward to seeing Pat. He’s a good man and he’s associated with success here.

“But there is so much at stake in the game in terms of competitiveness. We will shake hands before and hopefully have a beer afterwards, but we will be focusing on trying to get a win.”

They welcome back Ireland stars Bundee Aki and Finlay Bealham as they bid to end an eight-match losing run in the tournament.

As for Bristol Bears, they will be looking to recover from a 17-31 home drubbing by the Bulls last weekend.

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Connacht have been boosted by the return of Tiernan O’Halloran. The experienced fullback has struggled with a foot injury since December, and his inclusion is one of eight changes from the side that started the game against Lyon last week.

JJ Hanrahan returns at flyhalf while Caolin Blade captains the side from scrumhalf.

In the pack, there’s a return for props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham, while Tadgh McElroy keeps his place at hooker.

Niall Murray replaces his brother to start alongside former Bristol player Joe Joyce in the second row, and Shamus Hurley-Langton comes in at openside flank alongside Cian Prendergast and No. 8 Jarrad Butler.

All of Friday’s teams and predictions follow below …

Glasgow Warriors v Toulon
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow –  Kick-off: 20.00; French time 21.00, 20.00 GMT)

Prediction
@rugby365com: Glasgow Warriors by 12 points

Glasgow: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Kyle Steyn (captain), 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Rowe, 10 Tom Jordan, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Matt Fagerson, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Max Williamson, 3 Lucio Sordoni, 2 George Turner, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Euan Ferrie, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Ben Afshar, 23 Stafford McDowall

Toulon: 15 Aymeric Luc, 14 Gaël Drean, 13 Setariki Tuicuvu, 12 Mathieu Smaili, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Jérémy Sinzelle, 9 Vaso Lobzhanidze, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Matteo le Corvec, 6 Jules Coulon, 5 Adrien Warion, 4 Swan Rebbadj, 3 Emerick Setiano, 2 Teddy Baubigny (captain), 1 Bruce Devaux.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Fabio Gonzalez, 18 Beka Gigashvili, 19 Matthias Halagahu, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Jules Danglot, 22 Enzo Herve, 23 Maelan Rabut

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England), Gareth Holsgrove (England)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

Connacht v Bristol Bears
(The Sportsground, Galway –  Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)

Prediction
@rugby365com: Bristol Bears by six points

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 David Hawkshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Shayne Bolton, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Caolin Blade (captain), 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tadgh McElroy, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Oisin Dowling, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Oran McNulty

Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Fitz Harding (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Joe Batley, 4 Josh Caulfield, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Sam Grahamslaw, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Joe Owen, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 James Williams, 23 Piers O’Conor

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant referees: Kevin Bralley (France), Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)

Additional source @EPCR

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