Heineken Cup round 1: preview and predictions

Pool 1
Edinburgh v Saracens
Edinburgh make six changes to their starting line-up to take on Saracens at Murrayfield.
Internationals Tom Brown and Richie Rees return at full-back and scrum-half in place of the injured Greig Tonks and Chris Leck, who moves to the bench.
Captain Greig Laidlaw is at stand-off with Matt Scott and Nick De Luca in the centres. Lee Jones and try-scoring-machine Tim Visser start on the wings.
In the pack there are starting berths for props John Yapp and Willem Nel, who pack down either side of Scotland captain Ross Ford.
Grant Gilchrist and Sean Cox start in the second-row, with the forwards completed by flankers Ross Rennie and David Denton with Stuart McInally at No.8.
Saracens’ Brad Barritt returns to the starting line-up to make his 100th appearance partnering Joel Tomkins in the midfield.
Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Mouritz Botha and Kelly Brown all return to a strong Sarries pack but Ernst Joubert misses out through injury.
Charlie Hodgson gets the nod ahead of Owen Farrell while Chris Ashton and Alex Goode come back in to the backline.
Edinburgh: Brown, Jones , De Luca, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw (capt.), Rees; Yapp, Ford, Nel; Gilchrist, Cox; Denton, Rennie, McInally.
Replacements: Titterrell, Jacobsen, Cross, McAlpine, Talei, Leck, Leonard, Fife.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Strettle; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; Vunipola, Brits, Stevens; Borthwick (capt.), Botha; Brown, Fraser, Wray.
Replacements: Smit, Gill, Du Plessis, Kruis, Saull, De Kock, Farrell, Wyles.
Prediction: It might not be pretty but this Saracens bunch are a tough cookie to boss around. Edingburgh will be keen to reignite their form from last year which saw them reach the semi-final but I’m afraid we’ll see another famous away win from Sarries.

First start: Olly Barkley
First start: Olly Barkley

Racing Metro v Munster
Olly Barkley will make his first start for Racing Metro from fly-half after the French club lost another playmaker, Matthieu Bellie, through injury.
He will partner the talented French international scrum-half Maxime Machenaud with Italian veteran Mirco Bergamasco starting at outside centre.
France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski will lead from the front to create quality ball and bring Racing’s back row of Masinivanua Matadigo, Jacques Cronje and Antoine Battut into the game.
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has been named in Munster’s starting XV for the first time of the season as Munster travel to Racing Metro on Saturday.
O’Connell will form the lock partnership with Billy Holland, who is named in place of Donncha O’Callaghan who is out with a hamstring injury.
It will be O’Connell first game since the Pro12 game against Ulster last May where he suffered a knee injury.
Elsewhere in the pack, Dave Kilcoyne retains the loose-head jersey in the absence of Wian du Preez who sustained a knee injury in last week’s defeat to Leinster and Donnacha Ryan’s experience helped him getting the blindside berth ahead of Dave O’Callaghan who is named on the bench.
The backline sees Ian Keatley coming in at full-back replacing Denis Hurley who is named on the bench.
Racing Metro: Fall; Jané, Bergamasco, Estebanez, Saubade; Barkley, Machenaud; Lo Cicero, Szarzewski, Ducalcon; Ghezal, Van der Merwe; Battut, Cronje, Matadigo.
Replacements: Bianchin, Ben Arous, Sa, Metz, Le Roux, Geraondeau, Descons, Vakatawa.
Munster: Keatley; Howlett (capt.), Laulala, Downey, Zebo; O’Gara, Murray; Kilcoyne, Varley, Botha; Holland, O’Connell; Ryan, Dougall, O’Mahony.
Replacements: Sherry, Horan, Archer, O’Callaghan, Butler, Stringer, Barnes, Hurley.
Prediction: Racing are slowly but surely become a force in the Top14 and they’ve made the Stade Colombes a fortress tough to take. Munster are not the scary big red monster they used to be and Barkley’s duel with Ronan O’Gara could decide the outcome. Barkley and Racing will do it.
Pool 2
Ospreys v Treviso
Richard Hibbard will make his 150th Ospreys appearance tonightas the Welsh side travel to Treviso.
It will be a good opportunity for the Pro12 champions to carry their three-game winning streak against the team that beat them 12-6 in the opening round of the season.
No.8 Jonathan Thomas meanwhile will make his 50th Heineken Cup appearance for the region alongside Ryan Jones and Justin Tipuric, who returns from injury.
Despite two tries in last week’s 27-22 win at Edingurgh, No.8 Robert Barbieri has been dropped to the bench by Treviso and replaced by Manoa Vosawai.
The Fijian-born Italian international is back after a five-month layoff with a shoulder injury and will partner Alessandro Zanni and Simone Favaro in a strong back row.
The Italians also see the return to the starting XV of wing Ludovico Nitoglia who was sidelined since mid-September through injury.
The other changes are in the front row where experienced Leonardo Ghiraldini, is joined by Alberto De Marchi and Jacobus “Bees” Roux.
Ospreys: Fussell; Dirksen, Bishop, Beck, Walker; Biggar, Fotuali’i; Bevington, Hibbard, A. Jones; Wyn Jones (capt.), Evans; R. Jones, Tipuric, Thomas.
Replacements: Dwyer, D. Jones, Jarvis, Stowers, Lewis, Webb, Morgan, Isaacs.
Treviso: McLean; Nitoglia, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, Iannone; Burton, Botes; De Marchi, Ghiraldini, Roux; Pavanello (capt.), Bernabò; Favaro, Zanni, Vosawai.
Replacements: Ceccato, Fernandez-Rouyet, Di Santo, Minto, Derbyshire, Barbieri, Semenzato, Pratichetti.
Prediction: Treviso will be full of confidence but this is a different Ospreys team to the one they beat seven weeks ago. The Welsh are back to full strength and I think they will carry on their winning run.
Toulouse v Leicester
Toulouse host fellow former champions Leicester Tigers in the biggest clash of the opening weekend of the Heineken Cup on Sunday.
Toulouse academy graduate Gael Fickou will make his European debut at inside centre alongside Florian Fritz for the four-time champions.
Clement Poitrenaud returns to the full-back berth meaning Yoann Huget shifts to left wing.
Puma’s lock, Patricio Albacete, returns from international duty and comes in on the bench alongside veteran French international Yannick Jauzion.
For Leicester, Steve Mafi and Scott Hamilton are both included in the starting XV after they both missed the Premiership wins over Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks.
Loosehead Marcos Ayerza is included in the Tigers squad for the first time this season on his return from international duty with Argentina.
Vereniki Goneva makes his Heineken Cup debut on the wing.
Toulouse: Poitrenaud; Clerc, Fritz, Fickou, Huget; McAlister, Doussain; Steenkamp, Botha, Johnston; Chlusky, Maestri; Nyanga, Dusautoir (capt.), Picamoles.
Replacements: Tolofua, Poux, Guillamon, Albacete, Bouilhou, Jauzion, Burgess, Matanavou.
Leicester: Hamilton; Morris, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva; Flood, Youngs; Mulipola, Youngs, Cole; Kitchener, Parling; Mafi, Waldrom, Crane (capt.).
Replacements: Chuter, Ayerza, Castrogiovanni, Slater, Thorpe, Harrison, Ford, Smith.
Prediction: Heineken Cup hardly come any bigger than that. Toulouse are hitting form at the right time as usual and they know how important this game is. It’s a must win game for Toulouse and I think they will be too strong for the Tigers but a losing bonus-point would be crucial for the rest of their campaign.
Back in the frame: Danny Care
Back in the frame: Danny Care

Pool 3
Harlequins v Biarritz
Danny Care, Joe Marler and Maurie Fa’asavalu return the Harlequins starting XV as the reigning Premiership champions host the reigning Amlin Cup champions at The Stoop, where Biarritz won the trophy last season.
Care comes back in for Karl Dickson at scrum-half while the Samoan giant returns to blindside after Tom Guest started the last two games and Marler starts at loose-head.
Elsewhere, wing Tom Williams has recovered from a hip injury to start with Rob Buchanan making his first start of the season at hooker where he replaces Joe Gray who is having treatment to an injury which will prevent him playing for a number of weeks.
As a result, Dave Ward will look to make his first senior appearance from the bench since his move from the Pirates over the summer.
Meanwhile, Biarritz will hope their British trio will help get the start they want in the competition they love so much after four consecutive defeats in the Top14.
World Cup winner Iain Balshaw starts at full-back with former England flanker Magnus Lund and Wales wing Aled Brew starting at blindside and winger.
Kiwi and former Leinster fly-half Matt Berquist will lead the attack in a side missing France trio Dimitri Yachvili, Imanol Harinordoquy and Raphael Lakafia through injury.
Veteran Damien Traille is on the bench with former Fiji Sevens star Seremaia Burotu starting at inside centre.
Harlequins: Brown; Williams, Hopper, Turner-Hall, Monye; Evans, Care; Marler, Buchanan, Johnston; Kohn, Robson; Fa’asavalu; Robshaw (capt.), Easter.
Replacements: Ward, Lambert, Collier, Matthews, Guest, Dickson, Botica, Stegmann.
Biarritz: Balshaw; Ngwenya, Haylett-Petty, Burotu, Brew; Berquist, Lesgourgues; Barcella, Héguy, Gomez Kodela; E. Lund, Dubarry; M. Lund, Lauret, Gray.
Replacements: August, Blaauw, Synaeghel, Taele, Guyot, Peyrelongue, Traille, Baby.
Prediction: Biarritz know what it takes to get out of the group stages (away losing bonus-points) and they will want to impose their physicality up front to try to unleash their speedsters out wide. But Harlequins will want to make amends after their poor display last week. I’d love Biarritz to win but I think Quins will run them off their feet in the second half to just win it.
Zebre v Connacht
Zebre make their first appearance in the Heineken Cup against Connacht at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma tomorrow.
The Italian club have failed to win so far this season but Tito Tebaldi replaces Alberto Chillon at scrum-half in the only change in the backline from the defeat of Ospreys last week.
Up front, Salvatore Perugini returns in place of Matias Aguero while Josh Sole comes into the second-row for Mike Van Vuren who drops to the bench.
Zebre’s final change brings Nicola Balardo into the back row at the expense of Elmiliano Caffini.
Connacht have made four changes, all in the pack, Adrian Flavin makes way for hooker Ethienne Reynecke with Denis Buckley and Nathan White forming the all new front row trio.
Elsewhere, the fit again John Muldoon who returned from injury last week replaces Dave Gannon in the back row.
There are no changes to the backs which are led by experienced Scottish international Dan Parks who has 355 points previously in Europe.
Zebre: Halangahu; Venditti, Pratichetti, Garcia (capt.), Sinoti; Orquera, Tebaldi; Perugini, Giazzon, Redolfini; Geldenhuys, Sole; Belardo, Bergamasco, Van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: Festuccia, Aguero, Fazzari, Van Vuren, Ferrarini, Martinelli, Trevisan, Sarto.
Connacht: Henshaw; O’Halloran, Griffin, McSharry, Vainikolo; Parks, Marmion; Buckley, Reynecke, White (capt.); Swift, McCarthy; Muldoon, Faloon, Naoupu.
Replacements: Flavin, Ah You, Loughney, Gannon, O’Connor, Moore, Nikora, Fifita.
Predictions: Arguably the two worst team of the competitions. An Heineken Cup win won’t come any easier for both teams but I think Connacht will get this one and then hope for the best against Biarritz and Quins.
Pool 4
Ulster v Castres
20-year-old blindside flanker Iain Henderson will make his Heineken Cup debut for Ulster as he replaces the injured Nick Williams for tonight’s game.
Williams has failed to recover from a rib injury picked up in the 25-0 win over Connacht last week and his absence means Stephen Ferris switches to No.8.
The only other change to the matchday 23 is on the bench as Ruan Pienaar, who returned from Rugby Championship duty with South Africa earlier in the week, is named in place of Michael Heaney.
Former Worcester Warrior Marcel Garvey start on the wing for the French side who have left three key member on the bench.
Antoine Claassen, Iosefa Tekori and Rory Kockott have been in superb form so far this season but they are replaced by Pedrie Wannenburg, Matthias Rolland and Thierry Lacrampe at No.8, lock and scrum-half respectively.
Castres will travel to Belfast after beating Clermont last week but have historically never performed well on the European scene.
Ulster: Payne; Bowe, Cave, Wallace, Trimble; Jackson, P. Marshall; Court, Best, Afoa; Muller (capt.), Tuohy; Henderson, Henry, Ferris.
Replacements: Herring, Black, Macklin, Stevenson, McComish, Pienaar, L. Marshall, Gilroy.
Castres: Teulet; Garvey, Bai, Kirkpatrick, Andreu; Bernard, Lacrampe; Forestier, Bonello, Coetzee; Rolland, Capo-Ortega; Faasalele, Caballero, Wannenburg.
Replacements: Rallier, Marmoiton, Lazar, Tekori, Claassen, Kockott, Bonnefond, Sanchou.
Prediction: Castres have never taken the Heineken Cup seriously and by their selection it looks like things are not changing. Meanwhile Ulster have picked their best team and will carry on their unbeaten start of the season.
Leading from the front: Dylan Hartley
Leading from the front: Dylan Hartley

Northampton v Glasgow
Following last week’s thumping they received at London Irish, Northampton are boosted by the return of captain Dylan Hartley, George Pisi, and James Wilson for the reception of Glasgow on Sunday.
They overcame a fractured eye-socked, shoulder and hamstring injury respectively to start at hooker outside centre and full-back.
Elsewhere, Dom Waldouck will partner Pisi in the centre as Luther Burrell, who was in impressive form is given a rest and Rhys Oakley starts at No.8 to see Courtney Lawes moving up to the second row.
On the bench, South African GJ Van Velze is on the bench for the first time since his ban for a tip tackle in September.
Scotland international Stuart Hogg will make his first start since his ankle injury for Glasgow in a Scottish side that shows three changes from the 18-3 away win over Cardiff Blues last Saturday.
Hogg, who impressed off the bench having recovered from an ankle injury, lines up at full-back replacing Peter Murchie, while Ryan Grant comes in at loose-head prop and Tim Swinson starts in the second row.
Glasgow have gone for a 6-2 forward/back split on the bench as a testament to the level of physicality they expect to encounter from Northampton.
Niko Matawalu will cover the wing as well as scrum-half while the midfield and full-back positions wil be covered by Murchie.
Northampton: Wilson; K. Pisi, G.Pisi, Waldouck, Artemyev; Myler, Dickson; Tonga’uiha, Hartley (capt.), Mujati; Manoa, Lawes; Dowson, Wood, Oakley.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Doran-Jones, Sorenson, Van Velze, Roberts, Lamb, May.
Glasgow: Hogg; Seymour, Dunbar, Horne, Lamont; Jackson, Pyrgos; Grant, Hall, Cusack;  Swinson, Kellock (capt.); Strauss, Barclay, Wilson.
Replacements: Gillies, Fainga’anuku, Reid, Ryder, Fusaro, Eddie, Matawalu, Murchie.
Prediction: Glasgow are on the run of four consecutive wins while the Saints saw their unbeaten start of the season come an end abruptly last week. But with Hartley and Pisi back, they’ll have the leadership up front and the X-factor out wide to come on top of this one.
Pool 5
Clermont v Scarlets
Clermont were arguably the best team in Europe last season despite just losing to Leinster in the semi-finals. They desperately want to success in this competition and their selection for tomorrow’s games reflects that.
All the players in the starting line-up are international including Brits Lee Byrne and Nathan Hines and French stars Morgan Parra, Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Bonnaire and Thomas Domingo.
Brock James is preferred to David Skrela at fly-half while flying Fijian Naipolioni Nalaga and All-Black Sitiveni Sivivatu will form one of the most dangerous wing partnerships of the competition.
Following his try-scoring return to competitive rugby, Morgan Stoddart is handed his first start of the season on the left wing for the Scarlets replacing the injured Andy Fenby who suffered a dead leg last week.
Stoddart will be part of an all-Welsh international back line with Rhys Priestland and Tavis Knoyle at half-backs, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams in midfield and George North and Liam Williams completing the back three.
Up front, the Scarlets put a new South African duo into the second row with new signings Joe Snyman and George Earle combining for the first time.  Impressive young Wales U20 tight head Samson Lee wins his place in the starting line-up after his man of the match performance last weekend against the Dragons alongside the very experienced front row performers Matthew Rees at hooker and Prop Phil John in an unchanged front row.
Clermont: Byrne; Sivivatu, Rougerie, Fofana, Nalaga ; James, Parra; Domingo, Kayser, Zirakashvili;  Cudmore, Hines; Vosloo, Bonnaire, Chouly.
Replacements: Paulo, Debaty, Kotze, Pierre, Vermeulen, Radoslavjevic , Skrela, Stanley.
Scarlets: L. Williams; North, J. Davies, S. Williams, Stoddart; Priestland, Knoyle; John, Rees, Lee; Earle, Snyman; Shingler, Turnbull, McCusker (capt.).
Replacements: Owens, Hopkins, Manu, Timani, Murphy, G. Davies, Thomas, Maule.
Prediction: The Scarlets have had a good start of the season but you don’t travel to Marcel Michelin and win. No one has done it for 11 games in the Heineken Cup and more than three years in the Top 14. A bonus point for the Scarlets would be a miracle.
Leinster v Exeter
Cian Healy, will make his 100th appearance for Leinster starting in place of Heinke van der Merwe as Leinster coach Joe Schmidt made two changes to the side that beat Munster 30-21 last week.
Club captain Leo Cullen is passed fit as is Brian O’Driscoll from his rolled ankle and Isa Nacewa from a dead leg.
Ian Madigan continues at full-back for his second Heineken Cup start with Kearney still out injured and scrum-half Isaac Boss returns from a spell on the side-lines to sit on the bench.
Exeter will be on a high after scoring five tries on their way to a 42-28 victory over Quins last week.
After their impressive display last week Phil Dollman and Jason Shoemark carry on their centre partnership in an unchanged backline while there are two changes to the pack which see Tom Hayes replacing Wallaby Dean Mumm at lock and James Scaysbrook taking over from Ben White at open-side.
Leinster: Madigan; Conway, O’Driscoll, McFadden, Nacewa; Sexton, Reddan; Healy, Strauss, Ross; Cullen (capt.), Browne; McLaughlin,  Jennings, Heaslip.
Replacements: Cronin, Van der Merwe, Hagan, Toner,  Auva’a, Murphy, Boss, Carr.
Exeter: Arscott; Whitten, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Alcott, Rimmer; Hayes, Hanks; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter (capt.).
Replacements: Whitehead, Budgen, Moon, Muldowney, Mumm, Chudley, Mieres, Naqelevuki.
Prediction: If only Exeter could carry their Sandy Park form to the RDS, they might be in with a shout but the Heineken Cup is what Leinster live for. They’re going for the hat-trick and it’s hard to see them start with a home defeat especially with Clermont in the group too.
Sitting on the bench again: Danny Cipriani
Sitting on the bench again: Danny Cipriani

Pool 6
Sale v Cardiff
Danny Cipriani has been once again named on the bench as Sale host Cardiff in search of their first competitive win of the season.
Nick MacLeoad will be the man in charge of the Sharks’ attack alongside youngter Nathan Fowles who make an impression in his last two outings from the bench.
Elsewhere youngsters Will Addison, Mark Jennings and Tommy Taylor are all named in the starting XV.
Addison moves from the wing to outside centre to replaces Jonny Leota who drops to the bench while Jennings makes his senior debut on the right wing and Taylor is at hooker in an unchanged pack.
Alex Cuthbert makes in long awaited return after a good start of the season for the Blues who are on the back of two home defeats.
There are four changes in the forwards with Wales captain Sam Warburton, Bradley Davies, Marc Breeze and Tafa’ao Filise all returning to the starting XV at openside, lock, hooker and loose-head, having missed the match against Glasgow last Friday.
Sale: Miller; Jennings, Addison, Tuitupou, Cueto; Macleod, Fowles; Lewis-Roberts, Taylor, Buckley; Gray, McKenzie; Vernon, Seymour (capt.), Powell.
Replacements: Ward, Harrison, Cobilas, Myall, Gaskell, Willis, Cipriani, Leota.
Cardiff: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Evans, Roberts, James; Sweeney, Williams; Filise, Breeze, Bourrust; Davies, Reed; Navidi, Warburton, Pretorius (capt.).
Replacements: Kyriacou, Trevett, Andrews, Down, Copeland, Jones, Davies, Fish.
Prediction: It will be a night to remember the Sharks fan. Cardiff are not in the best shape while Sale have shown some signs of improvement last week against Leicester. This will be the first win of the season for Steve Diamond’s boys.
Toulon v Montpellier
Frederic Michalak will start for Toulon but alongside Jonny Willkinson at scrum-half as the French giants host Montpellier in an all-French affair.
Delon and Steffon Armitage keep their regular place at full-back and openside while Andrew Sheridan will wear the No.1 jersey.
Wallaby Matt Gitteau is associated to France star Maxime Mermoz in the midfield with bruiser Bakkies Botha starting in the engine room.
Toulon have already been tipped as favourite to take the trophy away from Leinster and have picked their best possible team, something that can’t be said about Montpellier.
Indeed French international Francois Trinh-Duc and Fulgence Ouedraogo are not even in the match day 23 as well as Shontayne Hape while Aliki Fakate and Mamuka Gorgodze are on the bench.
They see however the return of Argentinean hooker Augustin Creevy who returned from the rugby Championship earlier this week.
Toulon: D. Armitage; Martin, Mermoz, Giteau, Smith; Wilkinson, Michalak; Sheridan, Bruno, Hayman; Botha, Suta; Gunther, S. Armitage, Masoe.
Replacements: Ivaldi, Jenkins, Bruni, Bastareaud, Lapeyre, Tillous-Borde, Shaw, Kubriashvili.
Montpellier: Amorosino; Audrin, Carraro, Bosch, Artru; Perraux, Tomas; Watremez, Ladhuie, Bustos; Hancke, Demarco; Bias, Martin, Beattie.
Replacements: Creevy, Jgenti, Fakate, Gorgodze, Paillaugue, Bérard, Nagusa.
Prediction: This will be a team run with “opposition” for the Toulon. Anything but five points will be disappointing for Jonny’s boys. On current form, it’s hard to see even Cardiff or Sale coming anywhere close. The top seed for the quarter-finals already looms for them.

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