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Champions Cup, Round Four - teams and predictions

SATURDAY & SUNDAY PREVIEWS: Deon Fourie will return to a city of which he has fond memories, Paris, but it is on a very different mission.

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Just under three months ago the 37-year-old utility forward played a key role in South Africa’s 12-11 win over New Zealand in the World Cup Final at Stade de France.

On Saturday he will lead the Stormers into the cauldron of another well-known Paris stadium, Stade Jean Bouin, home of famed French team Stade Français.

Placed last in Pool Four, Stade Français, is the team in the Champions Cup that has no mathematical chance of qualifying for the Round of 16.

The best they can do is a place in the Challenge Cup by beating Stormers.

In contrast, the Stormers need just one point (of any description) to book their place in the play-offs, or come away from Paris with a bonus-point win to guarantee a Round of 16 tie in Cape Town.

However, the Stormers have not done particularly well away from home this season.

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In the Champions Cup, they lost 26-35 to Leicester Tigers, their only away match in Europe’s premier club competition, and in the United Rugby Championship, they have been ‘shocking’ on the road – to say the least.

Their winless tour at the start of the URC saw them lose 9-20 to Glasgow Warriors, 17-20 to Benetton, 3-10 to Munster and 24-31 to Cardiff.

The Stormers’ home form is what saved them, but in the constricted environment that is Stade Jean Bouin’s 4G pitch in Paris, they face a massive challenge to overcome a powerful French team.

“We are growing and understanding the conditions – with Damian [Willemse] and Manie [Libbok] having experience here [in Paris] at an international level,” Stormers coach John Dobson said.

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“I’m pretty optimistic we are heading in the right direction.”

The captain, Fourie, said that chasing a bonus-point win – to secure home-ground advantage in the Round of 16 – is important.

However, they must first secure the win.

“It depends on [the outcome of] some other games as well,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “It is not all in our hands.

“We must lay that foundation at the start of the game and secure the win.

“If everything goes well, maybe we can create some magic and get that fourth try.”

Stade Français may be winless and at the bottom of Pool Four, but Fourie said they are a ‘proud’ team that still has aspirations of making the cut to play in the Challenge Cup play-offs as a fifth-placed finisher in the pool.

He described head coach Karim Ghezal as a “very proud man” who doesn’t take kindly to defeats.

“They won’t just go down without a fight,” Fourie added.

Dobson said the names on the Stade Français say more of the French outfit’s threats than their results in Europe.

Players like flyhalf Joris Segonds, 37-year-old South African-born French international scrumhalf Rory Kockott and Paul Gabrillagues (at lock) ensure the Stormers will be tested.

“Stade has put out a strong team,” he said, adding: “They are a team that will look to overpower you.

“They have clearly not thrown in the towel.

“They are playing for a Challenge Cup place and they have put a lot of frontline guys out.

“It is going to be a big game for us.”

(John Dobson and Deon Fourie preview the Stormers versus Stade Francais face-off …)

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* South Africa’s other hope at Europe’s top table, the Bulls, faces a Bordeaux-Bègles team that is already through to the Round of 16.

Bordeaux needs a point from their Pool One trip to Loftus Versfeld to clinch a home tie in the play-offs.

The Bulls require a point of any description to qualify, but must win to have any chance of a home tie.

However, the Pretoria-based team must end Union Bordeaux-Begles’ eight-match winning streak, with the Top 14 club’s victory march including bonus-point wins in all three of their Pool One matches.

While they will no doubt want to secure top billing with a win in South Africa, they need only one point to secure home advantage in the next phase of the competition.

The game in South Africa will be a big test of Union Bordeaux-Begles’ title credentials – they have been one of the standout teams in the tournament so far but will face a difficult challenge in new surroundings.

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White is cautious of the French team, a side he says is good at “starting well and running away with games” early.

However, he believes his bench – which features Springboks Akker van der Merwe, Elrigh Louw, Cornal Hendricks and Scottish international Jaco van der Walt – could be invaluable when the altitude factor kicks in during the second half.

“I am trusting that if we need to play catch-up at the end, we have a bench that is good enough to do that,” White said.

“What is most important is that we ensure we get a result [a win] on Saturday,” the Bulls boss added.

He said they are planning to ensure the mid-afternoon heat and Pretoria’s infamous altitude are factors that work in their favour.

“This is our Test match, as a franchise,” he said of the importance of the game.

(Jake White previews the Bulls versus Bordeaux-Begles face-off …)

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* Leinster coach Leo Cullen will be telling his charges to erase last season’s comfortable 55-24 home quarterfinal success over Leicester Tigers from their minds when the teams clash on Saturday.

For a start, the Pool Four game is at Leicester, rather than in Dublin, and the Premiership side has a different coach who also knows a bit about the Irish game.

“Dan McKellar spent a bit of time in Leinster previously when he was coaching the Brumbies, so he has a very good understanding of us, which is always a danger,” Cullen told the Irish Independent.

“Listen, Leicester at home, regardless of who they play against, will put in a proud performance, because it means a hell of a lot to them playing at home.”

* On Sunday, it is all or nothing for both Sale Sharks and reigning two-time Champions Cup winners Stade Rochelais when the two meet at the Salford Community Stadium.

Barring an unlikely scenario, the losers of the Pool Four encounter will either qualify for the Challenge Cup or be knocked out of the EPCR competition altogether if results don’t go their way.

Sale Sharks will hope to be fresher – coach Alex Sanderson rested several front-line players for last week’s loss to the Stormers, reasoning that this weekend’s game was likely to be a do-or-die affair anyway.

The visitors could not afford to rest players at home to Leicester Tigers; having lost to both Leinster and the Stormers in the first two games before Christmas, they were already staring into the abyss.

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

Harlequins v Ulster
(Twickenham Stoop, London – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Harlequins by eight points

Teams

Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Nick David, 13 Oscar Beard, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cameron Anderson, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Will Evans, 6 Chandler Cunningham-South, 5 George Hammond, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Sam Riley, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Archie White, 21 Will Porter, 22 Lennox Anyanwu, 23 Will Joseph.

Ulster: 15 Mike Lowry, 14 Rob Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 David McCann, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Harry Sheridan, 20 Marcus Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Will Addison

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Vivien Praderie (France), Jonathan Gasnier (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)

Bulls v Bordeaux-Begles
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 French time; 13.00 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Bulls by six points

Teams

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 David Kriel, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Mpilo Gumede, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Reinhardt Ludwig, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 JF van Heerden, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Cornal Hendricks.

Bordeaux-Begles: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Nicolas Depoortere, 12 Pablo Uberti, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Paul Abadie, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Marko Gazzotti, 6 Pierre Bochaton, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Carlü Sadie, 2 Clément Maynadier, 1 Jefferson Poirot (captain).
Replacements: 16 Maxime Lamothe, 17 Ugo Boniface, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Alexandre Ricard, 20 Antoine Miquel, 21 Tevita Tatafu, 22 Théo Nanette, 23 Matéo Garcia.

Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Adam Leal (England), John Meredith (England)
TMO: Hamish Smales (England)

Leicester Tigers v Leinster
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Leinster by five points

Teams

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Simmons, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Archie Vanes, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Solomone Kata.

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (co-captain), 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan (co-captain), 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Sam Prendergast, 23 Tommy O’Brien.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Filippo Russo (Italy), Clara Munarini (Italy)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (Italy)

Racing 92 v Cardiff
(La Defense Arena, Paris – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 15.15 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Racing by 16 points

Teams

Racing 92: 15 Tristan Tedder, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Gael Fickou (captain), 12 Inia Tabuavou, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Antoine Gibert, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Kitione Kamikamica, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Ibrahim Diallo, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Hassane Kolingar
Replacements: 16 Janick Tarrit, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Gia Kharaishvili, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Maxime Baudonne, 21 Clovis le Bail, 22 Olivier Klemenczak, 23 Donovan Taofifenua

Cardiff: 15 Jacob Beetham, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Mason Grady, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Mackenzie Martin, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 Alex Mann, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Teddy Williams, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Efan Daniel, 1 Rhys Carre
Replacements: 16 Dafydd Hughes, 17 Rhys Barratt, 18 Rhys Litterick, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Thomas Young, 22 Ellis Bevan, 23 Owen Lane

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant referees: TBC
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

Munster v Northampton Saints
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 17.30; 17.30 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Munster by three points

Teams

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (captain), 4 Tom Ahern, 3 Oli Jager, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Brian Gleeson, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Seán O’Brien.

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank (captain), 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Tom Pearson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alex Coles, 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Tom James, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Charlie Savala.

Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Flavien Hourquet (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Stade Français v Stormers
(Stade Jean Bouin, Paris – Kick-off: 18.30 local; 19.30 SA time; 17:30 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Stormers by three points

Teams

Stade Francais: 15 Leo Monin, 14 Peniasi Dakuwaqa, 13 Stephane Ahmed, 12 Lester Etien, 11 Mathis Ibo, 10 Joris Segonds, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Giovanni Habel-Kuffner, 7 Andy Timo, 6 Mathieu Hirigoyen, 5 Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 4 Paul Gabrillagues (captain), 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Lucas Peyresblanques, 1 Clement Castets.
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Hugo N’Diaye, 19 Romain Briatte, 20 Sekou Macalou, 21 Jules Gimbert, 22 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 23 Leo Barre.

Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Angelo Davids, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Ben Loader, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Keke Morabe, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Hendré Stassen, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Stefan Ungerer, 23 Suleiman Hartzenberg.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: TBC
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

Saracens v Lyon
(Barnet Copthall, London – Kick-off: 20.00; 21.00 French time; 20.00 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Saracens by nine points

Teams

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Theo Dan, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 James Hadfield, 17 Sam Crean, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Olly Hartley, 23 Tom Parton.

Lyon: 15 Alexandre Tchaptchet, 14 Monty Ioane, 13 Alfred Parisien, 12 Josiah Maraku, 11 Davit Niniashvili, 10 Léo Berdeu (captain), 9 Liam Rimet, 8 Maxime Gouzou, 7 Theo William, 6 Marvin Okuya, 5 Ugo Vignolles, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Hamza Kaabeche, 2 Yanis Charcosset, 1 Jérôme Rey.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Paulo Tafili, 19 Loann Goujon, 20 Félix Lambey, 21 Paul Dumas, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Fletcher Smith.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

Sale Sharks v Stade Rochelais
(Salford Stadium – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 French time; 13.00 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Stade Rochelais by six points

Teams

Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Rob du Preez, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Arron Reed, 10 George Ford, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 6 Sam Dugdale, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Ben Bamber, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Tumy Onasanya.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Asher Opoku-Fordjour, 18 James Harper, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Nye Thomas, 22 Rekeiti Ma’asi-White, 23 Telusa Veainu.

La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Yoan Tanga, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Levani Botia, 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq, 1 Reda Wardi.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Aleksandre Kuntelia, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Judicael Cancoriet, 21 Thomas Berjon, 22 Hugo Reus 23 Jack Nowell.

Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Toulouse v Bath
(Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse – Kick-off: 16.15 local; 15.15 UK time; 15.15 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Toulouse by 18 points

Teams

Toulouse: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Dimitri Delibes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Jack Willis, 6 François Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 David Ainu’u, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Joshua Brennan, 20 Alban Placines, 21 Arthur Retiere, 22 Sofiane Guitoune, 23 Ange Capuozzo.

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Max Ojomoh, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (captain), 8 Miles Reid, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Ewan Richards, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Cameron Redpath.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Bayonne v Exeter Chiefs
(Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne – Kick-off: 18.30 local; 17.30 UK time; 17.30 GMT)

Predictions

@rugby365com: Exeter by eight points

Teams

Bayonne: 15 Tom Spring, 14 Aurélien Callandret, 13 Sireli Maqala, 12 Yan Lestrade, 11 Victor Hannoun, 10 Thomas Dolhagaray, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Baptiste Heguy, 6 Pierre Huguet, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 4 Denis Marchois (captain), 3 Junior Tagi, 2 Vincent Giudicelli, 1 Matis Perchaud.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Swan Cormenier, 18 Martin Villar, 19 Manuel Leindekar, 20 Manex Ariceta, 21 Kleo Labarbe, 22 Federico Mori, 23 Bastien Pourailly.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Ben Hammersley, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Tom Cairns, 8 Greg Fisilau, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 4 Rusi Tuima, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Dan Frost, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Lewis Pearson, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Joe Hawkins, 23 Zack Wimbush.

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Saba Abulashvili (Georgia), Shota Tevzadze (Georgia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Additional reporting by @ChampionsCup

 

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