Preview: European Cup, Round Two
CHAMPIONS CUP: Lyon’s New Zealand centre Charlie Ngatai says hosting record four-time winners Leinster in the Champions Cup on Sunday will be “massive” for the inexperienced club.
The French outfit, who lead the Top 14, are only in the competition for the second time and lost all six of their pool matches last season.
“It’s going to be massive. They’re going to want to come down here and give it their best,” Ngatai told AFP.
“I guess we have a chance to put a foot forward to show how we can hold our own against a big team.
“We had a taste of it last year, we know what the standards are and we have to lift our standards each game.”
The 14-25 loss to Northampton last weekend was their second defeat in three games after having remained unbeaten for the opening seven rounds of the domestic campaign.
“It wasn’t where our standards have been this season. We were disappointed in our own performance. At this level you can’t give away as many penalties,” Ngatai said.
Lining up outside the one-time All Black Ngatai could be Fiji wing Josua Tuisova, who joined ‘The Wolves’ from Toulon for the new campaign.
The 2016 Sevens Olympic champion is an injury doubt due to an ankle problem but has scored once in two games following his arrival at the Matmut Stadium after being knocked out of the World Cup pool stages.
“He can turn nothing into something. You just give him the ball and he feeds off that. You can see his raw power and his ability to break the line,” Ngatai said.
“The more ball we can give him, the more dangerous it is for the opposition to try and defend him. He pulls in two or three defenders which they have to worry about. He opens up more space for us,” he added.
Elsewhere this weekend, title holder Saracens welcome the Ospreys in their first home fixture since they were handed a £5-million (US$6.5-million) fine and docked 35 points for breaching the Premiership’s salary cap rules.
On Sunday, South Africa’s World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard could make his Montpellier debut, as they play Gloucester after he replaced the departed Aaron Cruden in the French club’s squad for the competition.
We look at all the Round Two matches!
Friday, November 22
Ulster v Clermont Auvergne
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.45; 20.45 French time)
Unbeaten records will be put on the line.
The Irish province dug deep to see off Bath 17-16 at The Rec last weekend, while Clermont comfortably defeated Harlequins.
This will be the fifth meeting in the Champions Cup between the two sides, with the home side winning every encounter.
Ulster has won 28 of their last 32 home games in the pool stages, including their last six on the bounce.
This will be Ulster’s 150th tournament match and become the fifth club to reach this milestone (Munster, Leicester, Leinster, Toulouse).
Clermont and Ulster both scored two tries from turnovers in the opening round of the Champions Cup.
Marcell Coetzee and Fritz Lee were two of just four players to make 15 carries and 15 tackles in Round One.
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Clermont Auvergne: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 George Moala, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Fritz Lee (captain), 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Etienne Falgoux.
Replacements: 16 Mike Tadjer, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Thibault Lanen, 20 Lucas Dessaigne, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Apisai Naqalevu.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe (England), Simon McConnell (England)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (England)
Saturday, November 23
Saracens v Ospreys
(Allianz Park, Barnet – Kick-off: 13.00)
The 2019 winners Saracens will aim to put their Round One defeat to Racing 92 behind them.
Saracens were beaten 30-10 by 2018 runners-up Racing 92 in Paris last weekend, while Ospreys were defeated 32-13 by Munster in Swansea.
This will be the sixth meeting in the Champions Cup between the two sides, with Saracens remaining unbeaten in the last five.
Saracens will play their 100th tournament match this weekend and have a win rate of 70 percent, the best of any team in the history of the competition.
Ospreys have won only one of their last 23 Champions Cup games away from home. Their only success in that period came against Northampton Saints during the 2017/18 pool stage.
Saracens spent the least time in possession of any side in Round One (12 minutes, 30 seconds) and made the fewest carries as a result.
Ospreys’ Dan Lydiate made 26 tackles against Munster in Round 1 , the most of any player last weekend.
Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Matt Gallagher.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Tom Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell (c), 6 Marvin Orie, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Luke Price, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Vincent Blasco Baqué (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
Benetton v Northampton Saints
(Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 UK time)
Northampton Saints will look to make it five wins on the bounce against Benetton.
Benetton was beaten by Leinster in their first match of the season while Northampton did enough to defeat Lyon.
Northampton Saints have won each of their previous four games against Benetton in the Champions Cup.
Benetton’s last Champions Cup win at home against Premiership opposition came in December 2004 against Bath.
This will be Saints’ first visit to Italy in the Champions Cup since 2014/15.
Dan Biggar landed seven kicks in the opening round and no other player landed as many in Round 1.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Nacho Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommy Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Michele Mancini Parri, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Marco Lazzaroni, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Ian Keatley.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain), 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Alex Moon, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Fraser Dingwall, 23 George Furbank.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dave Sutherland (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Toulouse v Connacht
(Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse – Kick-off: 14.00; 13.00 GMT)
The 2019 semifinalists Toulouse will look to make it two wins from as many matches this season when they host Connacht.
The French side picked up a win at Gloucester in Round One, while Connacht clinched a famous victory over Montpellier.
Toulouse has won four of their last six previous Champions Cup games against Connacht.
The French side has won their last five home games in the Champions Cup and the last time they won more in succession was back in 2011.
Connacht has won their first away game in the Champions Cup in their last three seasons.
Sofiane Guitone made five offloads in Round One, more than any other player.
Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Lucas Tauzin, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Jerome Kaino (captain), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Alban Placines, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16.Julien Marchand, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Selevasio Tolofua, 21 Francois Cros, 22 Pita Ahki, 23 Pierre Pages.
Connacht: 15 Matt Healy, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Kyle Godwin, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (captain), 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Peter McCabe.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Peter Robb.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Dean Richards (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)
Lyon v Leinster
(Matmut Stadium de Gerland, Lyon – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time)
Lyon will host Leinster for the first time in the Champions Cup.
Leinster comes into this match after a bonus-point win over Benetton, while Lyon was beaten on the road against Northampton Saints.
Lyon is aiming for a first win in the Champions Cup, having lost each of their seven fixtures to date.
Lyon has lost their last four home games on the bounce in Europe, this after winning nine of their previous 11 home fixtures.
Leinster have lost just one of their last eight games away from home in the pool stage of the Champions Cup, but that defeat did come on their most recent trip to France (v Toulouse last season).
Leinster have won five of their last six games against Top 14 opposition, this after winning two of their previous eight each such games before that run.
Leinster conceded just six turnovers against Benetton, fewer than any other club in Round One.
Leinster recorded a 90 percent tackle success rate against Benetton, one of just three sides with a rate of 90 percent or more (also Munster and La Rochelle).
Garry Ringrose is the top try scorer in the Champions Cup this season after crossing three times against Benetton. It was the first time a Leinster player had scored a hat-trick in the competition since Jack Conan’s treble against Montpellier in 2016/17.
Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Thibaut Regard, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Baptiste Couilloud (captain), 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Virgile Bruni, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Jonathan Pelissie, 22 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 23 Rudi Wulf.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Dave Kearney.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales (England), Tim Wigglesworth (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors
(Sandy Park, Exeter – Kick-off: 15.15; 16.15 French time)
This Pool Two match sees two unbeaten sides do battle.
Exeter Chiefs were excellent last week as they defeated La Rochelle 31-12, while Glasgow beat Sale 13-7.
Glasgow Warriors have won three of their four previous Champions Cup games against Exeter Chiefs, however, all four were decided by a single-digit margin.
The Chiefs have lost their opening home game of the season in just one of their last five Champions Cup campaigns, that defeat coming against ASM Clermont Auvergne in 2016/17.
Glasgow have won just two of their previous 22 away games against Gallagher Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup, although one of their two victories in that run did come against Exeter Chiefs in 2013/14.
Glasgow beat Sale Sharks at Scotstoun in Round 1, however, they’ve not won away at a Premiership club in the Champions Cup since beating Leicester Tigers 43-0 at Welford Road in 2016/17 – Warriors’ biggest victory in the competition.
Exeter have trailed at half time in just one of their last 10 Champions Cup games, leading seven times and going in level at the break twice.
Exeter Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors were two of just three clubs to keep their opponents scoreless in the first half of their Round One fixtures, along with Northampton Saints.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Ratu Tagive, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Kyle Steyn.
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
TMO: Éric Gauzins (France)
Munster v Racing 92
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 17.30; 18.30 French time)
Munster host Racing 92 in what looks like a cracking renewal of the 2018 Champions Cup semifinal.
Racing 92 came out on top in that clash in 2018 and defeated Saracens 30-10 in their season opener last week, while Munster picked up all five points in a 32-13 win over Ospreys.
Munster have won four of their six pool games against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, however, they lost their last such fixture 34-30 in Round 5 of the 2017/18 season.
Munster have won 30 of their 31 home games against Top 14 opposition in the Champions Cup, including their last seven on the bounce.
Racing was defeated by Ulster in their last away game in the Champions Cup, breaking a four-game winning streak in such matches.
Munster have lost just two of their last 16 pool games in the Champions Cup, although both defeats in that spell came against TOP 14 opposition (v Racing 92 and Castres Olympique).
Munster was one of just two sides to maintain a 100 percent success rate at both scrum and lineout in Round One (also Montpellier).
Racing 92 beat the most defenders (49) in the opening round, as well as making the joint most breaks (20, level with ASM Clermont Auvergne).
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Fineen Wycherley, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Arno Botha.
Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Boris Palu, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Yoan Tanga, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Brice Dulin.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Greg MacDonald (England), Wayne Falla (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
Harlequins v Bath
(Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham – Kick-off: 17.30)
The pressure is on for Premiership duo Harlequins and Bath.
Both sides failed to pick up points on the opening weekend of action, although Quins’ heavy 21-53 defeat at a hungry Clermont Auvergne contrasted in nature with Bath’s tension-filled 16-17 home loss to Ulster.
World Cup finalist Joe Marler will make his first Harlequins appearance this season and Italian international Michele Campagnaro makes his full debut. Semi Kunatani and Paul Lasike will also pull on the Quins shirt for the first time this term. For Bath, South African World Cup winner Francois Louw returns at number eight, while England international Anthony Watson lines up at full-back.
This will be the first Champions Cup encounter between Harlequins and Bath, however, they have previously met in the Challenge Cup when Bath claimed a brace of pool stage wins against Quins in 2006/07.
Harlequins earned a 33-28 win over Wasps in their last home game in the Champions Cup, snapping a three-game losing streak on home soil in the competition.
Bath have lost only one of their four previous away games against Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup, a quarterfinal defeat to Leicester Tigers in 2009.
Bath made 245 passes in their match against Ulster in Round One, more than any other side last weekend.
Harlequins conceded 20 turnovers in their Round 1 defeat to Clermont Auvergne, the most of any side in the opening weekend.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 James Lang, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Lawday, 7 Will Evans, 6 Chris Robshaw (captain), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 George Head, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 Paul Lasike, 23 Gabriel Ibitoye.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Wright, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Elliott Stooke, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Rhys Davies, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Sunday, November 24
Sale Sharks v La Rochelle
(AJ Bell Stadium, Salford – Kick-off: 13.00; 14.00 French time)
Sale Sharks host La Rochelle just seven months after the French club defeated the English side 24-20 in their 2019 Challenge Cup semifinal at Stade Marcel-Deflandre.
Both sides were beaten in their season openers last weekend – by Glasgow Warriors and Exeter Chiefs respectively – and will look to get back on track on Sunday.
The only previous meeting between Sale Sharks and La Rochelle in European competition was in last season’s Challenge Cup semifinal with the Top 14 club winning 24-20.
Sale Sharks picked up a win in their last home Champions Cup match (v Scarlets), ending a seven-game losing streak in such fixtures.
La Rochelle have lost three of their last four Champions Cup pool games, this after winning their initial three games during their debut season in 2017/18.
Sale last won against TOP 14 opposition in the Champions Cup in 2008/09 when they secured victory at home against ASM Clermont Auvergne, however, they’ve lost each of their 10 such matches since then.
La Rochelle has won two of their last three away games against Gallagher Premiership opposition in European competition, this after winning one of their initial eight such matches.
Sale and La Rochelle were both kept scoreless in the first half last weekend. Sale, however, were one of just two teams to not concede a second-half point.
La Rochelle completed 91 percent of their tackles against Exeter Chiefs, and only Munster (95 percent) recorded a better success rate in Round 1.
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Robert du Preez, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Ben Curry, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 WillGriff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Matthew Postlewhaite, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Luke James, 23 Marland Yarde.
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jérémy Sinzelle, 11 Arthur Retiere, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Victor Vito (captain), 7 Grégory Alldritt, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Rémi Leroux, 4 Romain Sazy, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Zeno Kieft, 20 Wiaan Liebenberg, 21 Tawera Kerr Barlow, 22 Levani Botia, 23 Brieuc Plessis-Couillaud.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), Paul Hancock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Montpellier v Gloucester
(GGL Stadium, Montpellier – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK time)
Montpellier and Gloucester both earned losing bonus points in Round One, but will be desperately seeking at least four when they face off.
Top 14 side Montpellier went down narrowly 23-20 at Connacht last weekend, while Gloucester were victims of a storming second-half comeback by Toulouse, letting a 20-9 half-time advantage slip to go down 25-20.
On Sunday, Louis Rees Zammit will become Gloucester’s youngest-ever starter in a European fixture at 18 years and 295 days old, taking James Simpson-Daniel’s 18-year record.
This will be the first meeting between Montpellier and Gloucester in European competition, despite the clubs playing a combined 258 matches in Europe (Montpellier – 103, Gloucester – 155).
Montpellier have won eight of their last 10 Champions Cup home games, including their last three on the bounce.
Montpellier was one of just two sides to maintain a 100% success rate at both the scrum and line-out in Round 1 (also Munster).
Gloucester made 226 tackles against Toulouse in the opening round and they were the only team to make 200+ tackles.
Montpellier’s Youri Delhoummel found a teammate with each of his nine line-out throws in Round 1; no other player attempted as many without missing at least one last weekend.
Montpellier: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Yvan Reilhac, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Anthony Bouthier, 9 Benoit Paillaugue (captain), 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Grégory Fichten.
Replacements: 16 Youri Delhommel, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Martin Devergie, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Vincent Martin, 22 Thomas Darmon, 23 Paul Willemse.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Freddie Clarke, 7 Jaco Kriel (captain), 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Corné Fourie, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin , 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Matt Banahan.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Sources: AFP and @ChampionsCup