Thu 11 Oct 2018 | 02:58

Preview: Champions Cup, Round One

Preview: Champions Cup, Round One
Thu 11 Oct 2018 | 02:58
Preview: Champions Cup, Round One
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NEW BEGINNINGS: Leinster kick off the defence of their European Champions Cup title with a tricky home tie against Wasps on Friday.

Assistant coach Felipe Contepomi insisted possession will be key against a side known for its attacking prowess.

The Irish province last season broke a five-year stranglehold on the Cup after Toulon’s trio of wins (2013-15) and Saracens’ double (2016-17), adding to titles they had previously won in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Contepomi, Leinster’s backs coach who amassed 651 points in 87 appearances for Argentina, was part of the province’s 2009 Cup-winning squad after spending six seasons mixing his medical surgery studies with playing 116 times for the Dublin outfit.

After appearing 40 times in the Cup and 18 more in the second-tier European Challenge Cup, Contepomi well realises the danger of looking too far ahead in a cut-throat competition in which only the five pool winners are guaranteed to advance to the quarter-finals along with the three best runners-up.

“Last season is last season, it means nothing today,” was the 41-year-old Argentinian’s blunt assessment.

“We’re starting a new competition this year. What has been achieved last season means nothing.

“I think it would be very mistaken thinking beyond this first game, it’s the most important, it’s the start of the campaign and they’re a very difficult team we’re playing against.”

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Contepomi said that the biggest defence of Dai Young’s Wasps team, boasting a host of entertaining England players, was “their attack”.

“They can be a real threat, we have to definitely make sure we’re in control and in possession of the ball,” the former flyhalf/centre said.

“They have match-winning players… so the more we can control the game and have the ball is better for us.”

Wasps captain Joe Launchbury was upbeat about the challenge facing his side at a sell-out, floodlit RDS Arena.

“It’s great that we get the chance to kick the tournament off on a Friday night against last year’s champions,” the 27-year-old forward said.

“It’s going to be a really good test of where we are and how set we are to continue in this tournament, so it’s a really good start for us.”

Launchbury added: “In terms of the threats that they possess, I think it’s pretty clear from the way they played last year.

“They’re a team that’s packed full of internationals, they play together on the international stage, then they come back and play in the same style for Leinster.”

Leinster and Wasps find themselves in a testing Pool 1 alongside Toulouse and Bath.

“We’re under no illusions about the challenge we’ve got,” Launchbury said.

“But that’s the great thing about this tournament: we face them and Bath in back-to-back weekends, and we have Toulouse in back-to-back games around Christmas time, so it’s a fantastic way for us to kick off this tournament.”

Wasps coach Young, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions prop, admitted his side wouldn’t be favourites.

“But we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re going to the home of the champions and we’re going there to try and win. But we have to play to our potential because if we don’t we won’t be near.

“You can’t limp over the line against Leinster. We’ve got to try and come out of every European game with something because if you have two bad results, you’re going to struggle to get through the pool stages.”

Fellow English Premiership side Saracens, with six wins from six in the domestic league, are in Pool 3 with Glasgow, Lyon and Cardiff Blues.

Struggling Toulon, 12th in the Top 14 after a shocking start to the season that has seen them win just two from seven, face league rivals Montpellier, Newcastle and Edinburgh in Pool 5.

Premiership leaders Exeter are drawn alongside Castres, Munster and Gloucester in Pool 2, while French big-spenders Racing 92 – who went down 15-12 to Leinster in last year’s nine-penalty final – are in Pool 4 with beaten semi-finalists Scarlets, Leicester and Ulster.

Pools

Pool One: Leinster (Ireland), Wasps (England), Toulouse (France), Bath (England)
Pool Two: Castres (France), Exeter (England), Munster (Ireland), Gloucester (England)
Pool Three: Saracens (England), Glasgow (Scotland), Lyon (France), Cardiff (Wales)
Pool Four: Scarlets (Wales), Racing 92 (France), Leicester (England), Ulster (Ireland)
Pool Five: Montpellier (France), Newcastle (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Toulon (France)

Round One matches!

Friday, October 12

Leinster (Ireland) v Wasps (England)
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)

Reigning champions Leinster won all nine games on their way to lifting the Champions Cup trophy last season and one more victory would equal their longest winning streak in the competition which they set across the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons.

This will be the fourth time in their last five European Cup campaigns that Wasps have begun with an away game in Ireland.

Leinster have won each of their last six games against Gallagher Premiership opposition, this after having won just four of their preceding 10 such games.

Last season Leinster was the only side to concede an average of fewer than 10 turnovers per game in the competition (9.7).

Despite beating fewer defenders per game (14.5) than any other side, only Saracens (3.6) averaged more tries than Wasps (3.5) in 2017/18.

Christian Wade had an average gain of 8.8 metres per carry in the pool stage of last season’s tournament, the best rate of any of the 66 players to make as many carries as him (45).

Leinster’s Luke McGrath provided six try assists last season, the most of any player in the competition.

Leinster’s James Ryan completed 74 of 74 tackles last season, no player attempted more without missing at least one.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Seán O’Brien, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Joe Tomane.

Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Elliot Daly (captain), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Zurabi Zhvania.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Rob Miller.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France

Saturday, October 13

Bath (England) v Toulouse (France)
(Recreation Ground, Bath – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 French time; 12.00 GMT)

Bath and Toulouse have met six times in the tournament with the home side on the day winning just one of those fixtures and the visitors securing four victories.

In their last four campaigns, Bath has averaged 19 points per match in 12 home fixtures, winning seven and losing five.

Toulouse is without a win in their last five games against Gallagher Premiership opposition in the competition, although their last such victory was against Bath in 2014/15.

Seven of Bath’s last eight home games against TOP 14 opposition have been decided by five points or fewer – a 32-12 win over Montpellier the only exception.

Toulouse has lost their opening game in each of their last two Champions Cup campaigns, this after winning their first match in the previous eight seasons.

Bath averaged more tackles per match (173) than any other club in the competition last season.

Toulouse had the best line-out success rate (92 percent) in the Challenge Cup last season.

Bath’s Tom Dunn made 119 tackles in the pool stage last season – 31 more than any other player.

Bath will be missing Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau, who broke an arm in last week’s Gallagher Premiership defeat by Exeter Chiefs.

Winger Semesa Rokoduguni has just signed a new long-term contract with Bath.

Teams

Bath: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Darren Atkins, 10 Rhys Priestland (captain), 9 Chris Cook, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Max Green, 22 Max Wright, 23 Tom Homer.

Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Maxime MĂ©dard, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 SĂ©bastien BĂ©zy, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Francois Cros (captain), 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Lucas Pointud.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Clément Castets, 18 Maks Van Dyk, 19 Pierre Gayraud, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Louis Madaule, 22 Antoine Dupont, 23 Romain Ntamack.

Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: John Lacey, Eddie Hogan O’Connell
TMO: Simon McDowell

Exeter (England) v Munster (Ireland)
(Sandy Park, Exeter – Kick-off: 15.15; 14.15 GMT)

Munster Rugby are the only Irish club Exeter have yet to face in Europe having played Leinster and Ulster in the top flight, as well as Connacht in the Challenge Cup.

Munster are unbeaten in their opening game in each of their last four campaigns, with two of those four matches in that run coming away from home.

Two-time champions Munster have lost just one of their last nine pool stage matches in the competition, that defeat coming in Round 5 last season against eventual runners-up Racing 92.

Munster’s CJ Stander was the only player to make over 100 tackles (119) and 100 carries (126) last season.

Former Scarlets player Tadhg Beirne won 18 turnovers last season, seven more than any other player.

Teams

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill.

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Sammy Arnold.

Referee: Jérome Garcès
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre, Jonathan Dufort
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin

Montpellier (France) v Edinburgh (Scotland)
(GGL Stadium, Montpellier – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 14.15 GMT)

Montpellier have won just one of their six opening games in the tournament, however, this will be the first time they’ve begun their campaign at home since their debut when they drew 16-16 with Leinster in 2011/12.

Edinburgh is participating in the Champions Cup for the first time since 2013/14 when they won three of their six pool stage games, including a victory in Round 1 against Munster.

Montpellier was the only side to maintain a 100 percent scrum success rate last season winning 40/40 on their own put-in.

Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo made the most metres (553) and clean breaks (16) and beat the most defenders (38) of any player in the 2017/18 edition of this competition.

The TOP14 side faced Scottish opposition in the pool stage of last season’s competition, beating Glasgow Warriors both home and away.

Teams

Montpellier: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Gabriel Ngandebe, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Enzo Sanga, 8 Louis Picamoles (captain), 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Vincent Giudicelli, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Antoine Guillamon, 19 Kevin Kornath, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Yvan Reilhac, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin.

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Dougie Fife, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Chris Dean.

Referee: Wayne Barnes Assis
Assistant referees: Matthew O’Grady, Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt

Scarlets (Wales) v Racing 92 (France)
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 17.30; 18.30 French time; 16.30 GMT)

Racing 92 won both their pool stage games in 2015/16 against Scarlets, scoring a combined 93 points and conceding just 26.

The last time these sides met Scarlets suffered their heaviest ever defeat (64-14) in their European Cup history.

Racing 92 are unbeaten on their last three visits to Wales, but have only won on one occasion.

EPCR European Player of the Year 2018, Leone Nakarawa, made 22 offloads last season, 10 more than any other player.

No player was involved in more tries in the pool stage of last season’s tournament than Scarlets’ Gareth Davies (4 tries, 3 assists).

Teams

Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Joshua Macleod, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Paul Asquith.

Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Olivier Klemenczak, 12 Henry Chavancy (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Guram Gogichashvili.
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Virimi Vakatawa.

Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Graham Hughes

Ulster (Ireland) v Leicester (England)
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 17.30; 16.30 GMT)

Ulster will look to make it five home wins from as many matches against Leicester Tigers in the European Cup.

Ulster’s four home victories against Leicester Tigers have come by an average margin of 23 points.

Leicester is on a four-game losing run, their worst ever run in the European Cup.

Tigers have lost on seven of their last eight trips to Ireland in the tournament. A 31-19 victory over Munster in 2015 was their only victory in that time.

Only Exeter and Leicester conceded fewer penalties per game last season than Ulster (8.7). They were also the only side not to receive either a yellow or red card.

Jacob Stockdale was the province’s top try scorer in 2017/18 (3 tries). He also has more clean breaks (13) in the pool stage than any other player bar Montpellier’s Nemani Nadolo (16).

Teams

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Will Addison, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Ross Kane, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 Angus Kernohan.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Jonah Holmes, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Guy Thompson, 5 Harry Wells, 4 Mike Williams, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Greg Bateman.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 David Fe’ao, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Sam Lewis, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Gareth Owen.

Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon, Jean-Luc Rebollal
TMO: Eric Gauzins

Sunday, October 14

Gloucester (England) v Castres (France)
(Kingsholm Stadium Gloucester – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 French time; 12.00 GMT)

This will be the first meeting between Gloucester and Castres in what is Gloucester’s first appearance in Europe’s top flight since 2013/14.

Gloucester have won their last five home games against TOP 14 opposition, the victories coming by an average margin of 13 points.

TOP 14 champions, Castres, have won just four of 40 away games in the tournament, losing their last 13 on the road and not winning in England since October 2001 (v Harlequins).

Gloucester finished as runners-up in last season’s Challenge Cup, and were one of only two sides (also Edinburgh) to average 5+ tries per game, while their 98 percent scrum success rate was the best in the competition.

Castres’ Yannick Caballero stole five opposition line-outs during the pool stage of last season’s competition, more than any other player.

Teams

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Tom Marshall, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan (captain), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Todd Gleave, 20 Matt Banahan, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Tom Hudson.

Castres: 15 Armand Batlle, 14 Martin Laveau, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Julien Dumora, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Baptiste Delaporte, 6 Mathieu Babillot (captain), 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Paea Fa’anunu, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Tudor Stroe.
Replacements: 16 Paul Sauzaret, 17 Tapu Falatea, 18 Wilfrid Hounkpatin, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Yannick Caballero, 21 Yohan Le Bourhis, 22 David Smith, 23 Rory Kockott.

Referee: Marius Mitrea
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino, Gianluca Gnecchi
TMO: Stefano Penne

Lyon (France) v Cardiff (Wales)
(Matmut Stadium de Gerland, Lyon – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UL tome; 12.00 GMT)

Lyon host Challenge Cup holders Cardiff Blues in their opening match at Matmut Stadium de Gerland.

This is Lyon’s first appearance in the competition. They did meet Cardiff Blues in the Challenge Cup last season, however, losing both their pool stage fixtures.

In four Challenge Cup campaigns Lyon won nine of 12 home games, but two of their three defeats were against Welsh opposition.

This is Cardiff’s first Champions Cup campaign since 2013/14; they’ve only won three of 20 previous games in France in the competition.

Cardiff won the Challenge Cup last season for the second time, only once has any club won the Challenge Cup before winning the European Cup the following year (Wasps, 2002/03 and 2003/04).

Four of the top six turnover winners in last season’s Challenge Cup represented either Lyon or Cardiff – Josh Navidi (11), Ellis Jenkins (9), Nick Williams (9) and Dean Fourie (8).

Teams

Lyon: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Thibaut Regard, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Patrick Sobela, 6 Julien Puricelli (captain), 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Dylan Cretin, 22 Quentin Delord, 23 Pierre-Louis Barassi.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornon, 20 Samu Manoa, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rey Lee-Lo, 23 Aled Summerhill.

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Ian Tempest, Wayne Falla
TMO: David Grashoff

Glasgow (Scotland) v Saracens (England)
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 15.15; 14.15 GMT)

Glasgow Warriors will look to end a run of three matches without victory against two-time Champions Cup winners Saracens when they meet on Sunday at Scotstoun Stadium.

The Premiership side have come out on top in all three of their previous meetings in Europe’s elite club competition.

Glasgow did beat Saracens back in 2004 in the Challenge Cup. That win is their sole victory over the Gallagher Premiership champions in eight attempts.

The Scottish side have won eight of their last nine matches against Premiership Rugby opposition. The sole defeat came against Northampton Saints in 2015.

Saracens recorded the best line-out success rate last season, completing 79 of 85 throws (93 percent).

Owen Farrell led the competition in points scored last season with 92 and only Ronan O’Gara (1,365) and Stephen Jones (869) have more points than the Saracens fly-half (688).

Teams

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (co-captain), 6 Ryan Wilson (co-captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Rob Harley, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Rory Hughes.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Mike Rhodes, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Liam Williams.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal
Assistant referees: Alexandre Ruiz, Thomas Charabas
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure

Toulon (France) v Newcastle (England)
(Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time; 14.15 GMT)

Newcastle Falcons travel to Stade Felix-Mayol to face three-time European Cup winners RC Toulon in their first match in Europe’s elite club competition since 2005 on Sunday.

This will be the first tournament fixture between RC Toulon and Newcastle, however they did meet in the Challenge Cup pool stage in 2011/12 with both sides picking up home wins.

Toulon have lost their last two games, but have never lost three consecutive matches in the competition.

This will be Newcastle’s third campaign in the European Cup and their first since 2004/05 when Jonny Wilkinson, later a two-time champion with Toulon, featured for Falcons on their way to the quarter-finals.

Toulon made more carries (153) per game than any other side last season, gaining the most metres (483) and beating the most defenders (26.6) on average.

Newcastle’s Adam Radwan gained the most metres (644), beat the most defenders (45) and most the joint most breaks (13, level with Henry Purdy) of any player in the Challenge Cup last season.

Teams:

Toulon: 15 Daniel Ikpefan, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Anthony Belleau, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Raphael Lakafia (captain), 7 Stephane Onambele Mbarga, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Swan Rebbadj, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Jean Baptiste Gros.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 SĂ©bastien Taofifenua, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Malakai Fekitoa, 21 Hugo Bonneval, 22 Anthony Meric, 23 Florent Vanverberghe.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 5 Glen Young, 4 Will Witty, 3 David Wilson, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Sami Mavinga.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Ryan Burrows, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Pedro Bettencourt.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant referees: Craig Evans, Wayne Davies
TMO: Neil Patterson

* Note: Five pool winners plus three best runners-up qualify for the knock-out phase

@ChampionsCup & AFP

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