Heineken Cup round 2: preview and predictions

Pool 1
Munster v Edinburgh
Munster will be disappointed they did not close the game out last Racing Metro last week, conceding two late penalties.
Although Edinburgh are on the back on a heavy defeat the experienced campaigners won’t be taking anything for granted.
The fit-again Donncha O’Callaghan returns to partner Paul O’Connell in the second row, while Mick Sherry starts on this occasion ahead of Damien Varley in the only changes up front.
Ian Keatley gets a first Heineken Cup start at No.10 in place of Ronan O’Gara who is out with a hamstring injury. This means Denis Hurley claims the No.15 jersey.
Notably, 20-year-old JJ Hanrahan is standing by to make his European bow from the bench as is Felix Jones.
Michael Bradley will be hoping Edinburgh can bounce back after they were ripped apart by Saracens last week
He has made five changes to the side that will see Greg Tonks and Ben Atiga make their European Cup debuts for the club while injured captain Greig Laidlaw is replaced at fly half by Gregor Hunter.
Meanwhile, Fiji captain Netani Talei starts at number eight pushing back-rower Stuart McInally to the open side at the expense of Ross Rennie, with David Denton retaining the blind-side berth.
Up front, the mobile propping option of Scotland tight-head Geoff Cross is preferred over South African, VP Nel.
Munster: Hurley; Howlett (capt), Laulala, Downey, Zebo; Keatley, Murray; Kilcoyne, Sherry, Botha; O’Callaghan, O’Connell; Ryan, Dougall, O’Mahony.
Replacements: Varley, Horan, Archer, Holland, Butler, Williams, Hanrahan, Jones.
Edinburgh: Tonks; Jones, De Luca, Atiga, Visser; Hunter, Rees;  Yapp, Ford, Cross; Gilchrist, Cox (capt); Denton, McInally, Talei.
Replacements: Titterrell, Hislop, Nel, McAlpine, Basilaia, Leck, Scott, Brown.
Prediction: Edinburgh will be racing out of the block looking for a reaction. But if Munster stay calm and keep them honest, the Irish will keep their campaign on track before the double header with Saracens in December.

Line break: Juan Martin Hernandez impact from 15 could prove crucial for Racing
Line break: Juan Martin Hernandez impact from 15 could prove crucial for Racing

Saracens v Racing Metro
Chris Wyles will lead out Saracens tomorrow in recognition of his 100th appearance for the club when they stage the first ever Heineken Cup match in Brussels at the Stade Roi Baudouin.
On the back of a 45-0 hammering of last year’s semi-finalists Edinburgh Saracens make four changes to the starting line-up.
England’s Owen Farrell starts at outside centre and Wyles replaces David Strettle on the wing.  Neil de Kock gets the nod ahead of Richard Wigglesworth at scrum-half.
Rhys Gill is the only change to the pack as he comes into the front row for Mako Vunipola who drops to the bench.
France international Fabrice Estebanez comes back for Racing Metro at inside centre as they look to build on a 22-17 first round win over Munster.
Juan-Martin Hernandez moves to full-back with fellow Puma Juan Imhoff returning on the wing.
New recruit Olly Barkley retains his place at fly-half after a good performance with the boot last week.
There is only one change to the pack that comes in the form of Bernard Le Roux replacing Masi Matadigo at open-side.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Farrell, Barritt, Wyles; Hodgson, De Kock; Gill, Brits, Stevens; Borthwick (capt.), Botha; Brown, Fraser, Wray.
Replacements: Smit, Vunipola, Nieto, Hargreaves, Saull, Wigglesworth, Tomkins, Strettle.
Racing Metro: Hernandez; Fall, Bergamasco, Estebanez, Imhoff; Barkley, Machenaud; Lo Cicero, Szarzewski, Ducalcon; Ghezal, Van Der Merwe; Battut, Le Roux, Cronje (capt.).
Replacements: Noirot, Ben Arous, Orlandi, Metz, Jané, Matadigo, Descons, Germain.
Prediction: Saracens seem to have found their running game but the Racing pack will give them a much better test. The battle up-front will be fierce but I see Saracens/Hodgson just edge it.
Pool 2
Leicester v Ospreys
The Heineken Cup is not won in the first two weeks but Leicester will need to avoid defeat if they don’t want a serious uphill battle for qualification.
Both teams have named unchanged starting XVs for their clash at Welford Road on Sunday.
However, Leicester welcome back Louis Deacon who has recovered from hamstring and shoulder injuries to take his place among the replacements as the Tigers look to put their opening-round defeat in Toulouse behind them.
There will be an interesting battle at fly-half where Toby Flood will look to get one over on his opposite number, and potential Lions rival, Dan Biggar.
The visitors kicked off their European campaign with a 38-17 bonus-point victory at home to Treviso last week but they will face a far tougher task against a strong Tigers outfit.
Joe Bearman has recovered from injury to provide cover on the bench to a very experienced Ospreys pack. Young Sam Lewis is the man to make way.
Leicester: Hamilton; Morris, Tuilagi, Allen, Goneva; Flood, Youngs; Mulipola, Youngs, Cole; Kitchener, Parling; Mafi, Waldrom, Crane (capt.).
Replacements: Chuter, Ayerza, Castrogiovanni, Deacon, Thorpe, Harrison, Ford, Smith.
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, Bearman, Webb, Morgan, Isaacs.
Prediction: The Tigers are not in the best form right now. They have been struggling for a while and it showed last week. On the other hand, the Ospreys are on very good form. Could this be an upset? It might not be pretty but I think pride will help the Tigers to a much needed win.
Treviso v Toulouse
Treviso have won two of their last three home games against Top14 opponents, beating Perpignan and Biarritz but they welcome an ominous Toulouse side to the Stadio Comunale Monigo tomorrow.
The hosts will need to improve their discipline this week after conceding 15 penalties and receiving three yellow cards at the Liberty Stadium last Friday.
Top-try-scorer Robert Barbieri starts at No.8 ahead of Manoa Vosawai and Michele Rizzo and Lorenzo Cittadini replace Alberto De Marchi and Jacobus Roux in the front row.
Toulouse make seven changes to their starting XV who comfortably beat Leicester in the first round.
French international wing Yoann Huget shifts to full-back for in place of Clement Poitrenaud, who drops to the bench, while Fijian speedster Timoci Matanavou takes over on the left wing.
In the pack, Pumas lock Patricio Albacete makes his first start of the season after returning from international duty and Jean Bouilhou is preferred to Yannick Nyanga in the back row.
Jean Batiste Poux, Christopher Tolofua, Yohan Montès make up an all-new front row meaning the visitors have an all-international bench.
Treviso: McLean; Toniolatti, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, Iannone; Burton, Botes; Rizzo, Ghiraldini, Cittadini; Pavanello (capt.), Minto; Vosawai, Zanni, Barbieri.
Replacements: Ceccato, De Marchi, Fernandez-Rouyet, Bernabò, Favaro, Filippucci, Semenzato, Pratichetti.
Toulouse: Huget; Clerc, Fritz, Fickou, Matanavou; McAlister, Doussain; Poux, Tolofua, Montès; Chlusky, Albacete; Bouilhou, Dusautoir (capt.), Picamoles.
Replacements: Botha, Steenkamp, Johnston, Lamboley, Nyanga, Burgess, Jauzion, Poitrenaud.
Prediction: Treviso will go two from four against French clubs after this one. Toulouse were imperial last week and their Heineken Cup experience will help them to overcome the Italians and go clear at the top of the pool table.
Pool 3
Biarritz v Zebre
French internationals Damien Traille and Raphael Lakafia return for Biarritz as the French giants will be looking to get their campaign underway against the Italians newcomers.
On the back of five consecutive defeats, Biarritz have no choice but win if they want to avoid an early exit from the easiest group in the competiton.
Youngster Jean-Pascal Barraque will lead the attack from flu-haf as Kiwi Matt Berquist is injured.
Meanwhile, Zebre, who are still chasing their first victory in any competition, have made five changes to the team that lost to Connacht last week.
Matteo Pratichetti gets a start on the wing replacing the injured Sinoti Sinoti while fly-half Luciano Orquera makes his first start of the campaign as does flanker Filippo Ferrarini.
Biarritz: Balshaw; Ngwenya, Burotu, Traille (capt.), Brew; Barraque, Lesgourgues; Lakafia, Lauret , M. Lund; Taele, E. Lund; Gomez-Kodela, August, Barcella.
Replacements: Héguy, Synaeghel, Van Staden, Dubarry, Guyot, Peyrelongue, Bosch, Baby.
Zebre: Trevisan; Venditti, Garcia (capt.), Halangahu, Pratichetti; Orquera, Martinelli; Perugini, Festuccia, Redolfini; Geldenhuys, Van Vuren; Ferrarini, Bergamasco, Schalkwyk.
Replacements: Manici, Ryan, Fazzari, Caffini, Cristiano, Tebaldi, Benettin, Odiete.
Prediction: Surely this will be the end of the drought for my boys. They know what it takes to qualify but they also know that two defeats will makes things a lot harder. Nothing but a bonus point win will do as they couldn’t get the bonus point last week.
Given the reins: Ben Botica will lead the Quins attack from 10
Given the reins: Ben Botica will lead the Quins attack

Connacht v Harlequins
Connacht made only one change to their starting XV as the Irish will try to emulate their performance from last season where they beat Quins to eventually end the Premiership Champions Heineken Cup campaign.
Following their 19-10 victory over Zebre last weekend, a win could put the Irish in a great position to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Adrian Flavin comes in at hooker for Ethienne Reynecke, who injured his calf in the closing stages of the game in Italy last Saturday.
In the backs, Dave McSharry earns his 20th cap for the province, and retains his midfield partnership with Eoin Griffin.
Youngster Ben Botica will be in charge of leading the Harlequins’ attack as he replaces fellow Kiwi Nick Evans who suffered a ankle injury last week.
Evans limped off the field in the 40-13 win over Biarritz midway through the first half but Botica came on and put on a man-of-the-match display on their way to victory.
The only other change in the starting line-up see Sam Smith coming on the left wing for Ugo Monye who also injured one of his ankles.
Among the replacements, Dave Ward will look to make his second appearance while Rory Clegg and Seb Stegmann cover the backline in a 6/2 split bench.
Connacht: Henshaw; O’Halloran, Griffin, McSharry, Vainikolo, Parks, Marmion; Buckley, Flavin, White (capt.); Swift, McCarthy; Muldoon, Faloon, Naoupu.
Replacements: Harris Wright, Wilkinson, Loughney, Gannon, O’Connor, Moore, Nikora, Fifita.
Harlequins: Brown; Williams, Hopper; Turner-Hall, Smith, Botica, Care; Marler, Buchanan, Johnston; Kohn, Robson; Fa’asavalu, Robshaw (capt.), Easter.
Replacements: Ward, Lambert, Collier, Matthews, Guest, Dickson, Clegg, Stegmann.
Prediction: Connacht will be a tough cookie at home but Harlequins will be driven by the desire to make a statement after last year. They should get the four points to go clear at the top of the pool.
Pool 4
Castres v Northampton
Big guns Antoine Claassen, Iosefa Tekori and Rory Kockott all return for Castres as the French name a typically strong team for their first “home” game of the campaign in Toulouse.
They replace Pedrie Wannenburg, Matthias Rolland and Thierry Lacrampe at No.8, lock and scrum-half respectively.
Romain Teulet remains at full-back as French international Brice Dulin is out injured.
Meanwhile, Ryan Lamb comes back into Northampton starting XV for the first time since the second round of the Premiership.
His return means Stephen Myler shifts to full-back in place on James Wilson as the Saints face the daunting trip to France only five days after they beat Glasgow at Franklin’s Gardens.
Castres: Teulet; Martial, Bonnefond, Bai, Garvey; Tales, Kockott; Lazar, Mach, Peikrishvili; Tekori, Samson; Bornman, Faasalele, Claassen.
Replacements: Rallier, Forestier, Coetzee, Rolland, Kirkpatrick, Wannenburg, Cabannes, Andreu,
Northampton: Myler; K. Pisi, G. Pisi, Waldouck, Artemyev; Lamb, Dickson; Tonga’uiha, Hartley, Mujati; Manoa, Lawes; Dowson, Wood, Oakley.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Doran-Jones, Sorenson, Van Velze, Roberts, May, Armstrong.
Prediction: This will be a very different Castres outfit. Even though the game is not in their beloved Pierre Rajon, they will not want to show themselves up. Added to the quick turn around and the trip down South, it will prove too much for Northampton.
Back in the frame: Ruan Pienaar start his first game of the season
Back in the frame: Ruan Pienaar start his first game of the season for Ulster

Glasgow v Ulster
Byron McGuigan will make his Heineken Cup debut as the young winger comes for the suspended Tommy Seymour for the reception of Ulster tonight.
Despite a good start against Northampton, the Scots came back from the Midlands empty handed and nothing else but a win would already see them out of the competition.
Peter Murchie will start at outside centre replacing the injured while Tom Ryder gets the nod over Tim Swinson in the second row and Chris Fusaro comes in for John Barclay at openside flanker.
On the bench, the Warriors welcome back Rob Harley, who has been missing since the start of September with a knee injury.
Following his last gasp try to earn Ulster a crucial bonus point, Springbok Ruan Pienaar has been included in the starting line up.
Pienaar comes in for youngster Paul Marshall who, despite a tremendous performance last week against Castres where he scored two tries, is dropped to the bench.
Nick Williams has recovered from a rib injury and will start the game at No.8 in place of Mike McComish who is named on the bench.
Also in the back row, Stephen Ferris has failed to recover from a back injury so impressive youngster Iain Henderson retains his place at blindside flanker.
Glasgow: Hogg; McGuigan, Murchie, Horne, Dunbar; Jackson, Pyrgos; Grant, Hall, Cusack; Ryder, Kellock (capt.); Strauss, Fusaro, Wilson.
Replacements: Gillies, Fainga’anuku, Reid, Swinson, Harley, Barclay, Wight, Matawalu.
Ulster: Payne; Bowe, Cave, Wallace, Trimble; Jackson, Pienaar; Court, Best, Afoa; Muller (capt.), Tuohy; Henderson, Henry, Williams.
Replacements: Herring, Black, Macklin, Stevenson, McComish, Marshall, Marshall, Gilroy.
Prediction: Glasgow are desperate for a win but Ulster seem unstoppable right now. The only unbeaten team left in Europe play a great rugby. They’ll keep their record intact.
Pool 5
Exeter v Clermont
Following their impressive debut in the competition against the reigning champions away from home, the Chiefs will be looking for a huge scalp in Clermont.
Back at their beloved Sandy Park, they will be keen to follow through their 9-6 loss to Leinster.
Rob baxter has made just one change with Wallby Dean Mumm handed his first European start in place of James Hanks who drops to the bench.
France lock Julien Pierre returns for the French giants as they face a daunting trip to Exeter.
Pierre comes in for Lion Nathan Hines after the Scot was banned for six weeks for stamping Scarlets Morgan Stoddart in last week 49-16 win over the Welsh.
There is no other changes with Welsh start Lee Byrne carrying on at full-back in an all-international starting XV.
Exeter: Arscott; Whitten, Dollman, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Alcott, Rimmer; Hayes (capt.), Mumm; Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter.
Replacements: Whitehead, Budgen, Moon, Hanks, Muldowney, Chudley, Mieres, Naqelevuki.
Clermont: Byrne; Sivivatu, Rougerie (capt.), Fofana, Nalaga; James, Parra; Chouly, Vosloo, Bonnaire; Pierre, Cudmore; Zirakashvili, Kayser, Domingo.
Remplaçants: Paulo, Debaty, Kotze, Jacquet, Vermeulen, Radosavljevic, Skrela, Stanley.
Prediction: Every time they to take a step up, the Chiefs never failed and after last week, they will be expected to run Clermont to the wire. But Clermont know what it takes to close the game down when will try to take the game away. It will be close again but not enough for Exeter.
Scarlets v Leinster
The Scarlets make only two changes from the starting line-up who suffered a heavy 49-16 loss at Clermont last week as they prepare to host the reigning Heineken Cup champions.
Top-try-scorer Andy Fenby returns on the wing after recovering from a dead leg injury. He replaces Morgan Stoddart who was sent off last week but is free to play tomorrow.
However, Wales start Jonathan Davies won’t take the field tomorrow after the centre ailed to recover from a groin injury and will be replaced by Gareth Maule.
Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby makes no changes up front but new signing Tomás Vallejos comes onto the bench with the opportunity to earn his first appearance in a Scarlets jersey.
Gordon D’Arcy returns to Leinster starting line-up as the Irish giants look to earn a rather more comfortable win than last week.
The reigning champions were pushed all the way last week by newcomers Exeter but managed to claim the four points thanks to three Jonathan Sexton’s penalties.
D’Arcy, who the most capped Leinster player, will equal Shanes Horgan’s European record appearance tally of 87 caps for the occasion.
The other change to the starting XV sees hooker Sean Cronin, a second half replacement last weekend, make his 30th appearance in a front row where he is joined by fellow Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross.
Scarlets: L. Williams; North, Maule, S. Williams, Fenby; Priestland, Knoyle; John, Rees, Lee; Earle, Snyman; Shingler, Turnbull, McCusker (capt.).
Replacements: Owens, Hopkins, Manu, Vallejos, Edwards, Davies, Thomas, Stoddart.
Leinster: Madigan; McFadden, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Nacewa; Sexton, Reddan; Healy, Cronin, Ross; Cullen (capt.), Browne; McLaughlin, Jennings, Heaslip.
Replacements: Straussm, Van der Merwe, Hagan, Toner, Murphy, Boss, Conway, Carr.
Prediction: The champions probably didn’t expect it but they already have something to prove. In this very competitive group any points away from home will be crucial. Both team will be looking for a reaction but Leinster will deliver the goods.
Pool 6
Captain fantastic: Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is back for Toulon
Captain fantastic: Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is back for Toulon

Cardiff v Toulon
Wales captain Sam Warburton is fit for Sunday’s clash at home to Toulon after he was forced off just five minutes in the opening round loss to Sale with a dislocated finger.
Cardiff will be looking for a reaction against this week’s all-star opponents and are given a boost with Jamie Roberts also being declared fit despite a heavy hit to the ribs last week meaning Cardiff name an unchanged side.
French giants Toulon will look to build on their 37-16 opening round victory over Montpellier and take a step closer to qualification.
Toulon have made five changes to their line-up, including a recall for Gethin Jenkins against his former club.
Mickael Ivaldi and Davit Kubriashvili join Jenkins in a new-look front row, with Juan Fernandez Lobbe also starting in the No 6 jersey.
In midfield, powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud is promoted to the starting XV ahead of Maxime Mermoz.
Cardiff: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Evans, Roberts, James; Sweeney, Williams; Filise, Breeze, Bourrust; Davies, Reed; Navidi, Warburton, Pretorius (capt.).
Replacements: Kyriacou, Trevett, Andrews, Down, Copeland, Jones, Tovery, Hewitt.
Toulon: Armitage; Martin, Bastareaud, Giteau, Smith; Wilkinson, Michalak; Jenkins, Ivaldi, Kubriashvili; Botha, Suta, Fernandez Lobbe,  Armitage, Masoe.
Replacements: Orioli, Sheridan, Hayman, Gunther, Mermoz, Lapeyre, Durand, Shaw.
Prediction: Toulon have rotated their squad but it doesn’t mean they lost strength of power. Cardiff have to get the win but the Toulon scrum will do the damage to allow their three play maker to bring the big runners in the game and get another win.
Montpellier v Sale
Unlike last week when they travelled to Toulon, Montpellier have named their strongest team for the reception of Sale.
Pumas Lucas Amorosino, Juan Figallo and Ausgutin Creevy come back at full-back, loosehead and hooker while Santiago Shanchez is on the bench.
French internationals Francois Trinh-Duc and captain Fulgence Ouedraogo return at fly-half and blindside while man mountain Mamuka Gorgodze is at openside and England international Shontayne Hape at inside centre.
Following his man-of-the-match display from the bench last week, Danny Cirpiani has been handed a start at fly-half as Sale look to confirm their new found form in France.
The Sharks’ starting XV shows eight changes from the side that started against Cardiff Blues last Sunday.
Sam Tuitupou and Richie Gray are unavailable through injury, whilst Tom Brady returns on the right wing after suspension, allowing Mark Jennings to switch to his more accustomed position at inside centre.
Montpellier: Amorosino; Bérard, Nagusa, Hape; Bustos-Moyano, Trinh-Duc, Tomas; Figallo, Creevy, Bustos; Fakate, Privat; Ouedraogo (capt.), Gorgodze, Beattie.
Replacements: Van Vuuren, Watremez, Pelo, Demarco, Bias, Paillaugue, Fernandez, Combezou.
Sale: Miller; Brady, Addison, Jennings, Cueto; Cipriani, Willis; Lewis-Roberts, Ward, Buckley; McKenzie, Myall; Gaskell, Seymour (capt.), Easter.
Replacements: Taylor, Harrison, Cobilas, Vernon, Powell, Fowles, Macleod, Leota.
Prediction: Cips is back for the Sharks but this time around his pack won’t be as dominant as in last week’s second half. Montpellier are a good side at home and with this line up the Sharks will be back to the drawing board after this one.

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