Heineken Cup round 3: preview and predictions

Pool 1
Munster v Saracens
Dave O’Callaghan will make his first Heineken Cup start for Munster against Saracens in Thomond Park tomorrow.
O’Callaghan will become the fifth Munster player to make his European debut this season when he starts in a back-row alongside Peter O’Mahony and James Coughlan.
Paul O’Connell’s continued absence sees Donncha Ryan and Donnacha O’Callaghan pack down in the second row.
Ronan O’Gara, who missed the win over Edinburgh with a hamstring injury, returns at fly-half with Ian Keatley making way.
Felix Jones comes into the side at full-back instead of Denis Hurley while Keith Earls’ return to full fitness sees him named in his favoured outside centre position.
Ernst Joubert will make his 100th appearance for Saracens after being named in the starting line-up.
Saracens welcome back the England quintet of Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton, Alex Goode, Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola.
Barritt and Farrell will combine in the centres with Ashton returning to his wing and Goode to full-back. Vunipola is named on the bench.
Neil de Kock continues at scrum-half and this year’s competition leading points scorer Charlie Hodgson is at fly-half after returning from injury to help beat Gloucester last weekend.
Kelly Brown and Schalk Brits also return to the side after being rested last Sunday.
Munster: Jones; Howlett (capt.), Earls, Downey, Zebo; O’Gara, Murray; Kilcoyne, Sherry, Botha; Do. O’Callaghan, Ryan; Da. O’Callaghan, O’Mahony, Coughlan.
Replacements: Varley, Du Preez, Archer, Holland, Butler, Williams, Keatley, Laulala.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Farrell, Barritt, Strettle; Hodgson, De Kock; Gill, Brits, Stevens; Borthwick (capt.), Botha; Brown, Fraser, Joubert.
Replacements: Smit, Vunipola, Du Plessis, Kruis, Saull, Wigglesworth, Tomkins, Wyles.
Prediction: Saracens are on form and they don’t need the win to qualify but they could do with it almost certainly seal the deal. Munster are not the Munster they used to be and if Sarries an front up early they could be in for a famous away win.
Racing Metro 92 v Edinburgh
Olly Barkley starts at fly-half for Racing Metro for the Heineken Cup clash against Edinburgh at Stade Yves du Manoir tomorrow night.
Argentina’s Juan Matin Hernandez plays in his usual full back role with fellow international Juan José Imhoff on the wing.
France internationals Dimitri Szarzewski and Maxime Machenaud are both named among the replacements as Thomas Bianchin get the nod at hooker and Sébastien Descons starts at scrum-half.
Michael Bradley has named four changes to face Racing Metro in Paris as the Scots seek not only their first win on the European season but also their first points after losing 45-0 and 33-0 to Saracens and Munster in the opening two rounds.
While the loose forwards and the starting back division are all unchanged, a fresh international front-row of John Yapp, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross come back to pack down alongside returning second-row Grant Gilchrist.
Their selection sees Allan Jacobsen, Andy Titterrell, WP Nel and Perry Parker start on the bench while newly signed fly-half Piers Francis could make his club debut from the bench.
Racing: Hernandez ; Vakatawa, Boussès, Estebanez, Imhoff;  Barkley,  Descons ; Brugnaut, Bianchin, Sa; Metz, Van der Merwe; Battut, Matadigo, Cronje.
Replacements: Szarzewski, Ben Arous, Orlandi, Le Roux, Qovu, Gérondeau, Machenaud, Dumoulin.
Edinburgh: Tonks; Brown, De Luca, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw (capt.), Rees; Yapp, Ford, Cross; Gilchrist, Cox; Denton, Grant, McInally.
Replacements: Titterrell, Jacobsen, Nel, Parker, McAlpine, Francis, Fife, Jones.
Prediction: Both teams are not in their best form right now but you’d have to back Racing at home to get the goods and who knows, if they can make the double against the Scots they could be in with a shout for the qualification.
Pool 2
Leicester v Treviso
The Youngs brothers, Geoff Parling, Manu Tuilagi and Dan Cole all come back for the Tigers for Sunday’s match against Benetton Treviso at Welford Road.
Tom Youngs starts at hooker while brother Ben will wear his familiar No.9 jersey. Parling and Tuilagi will kick off the game from lock and outside centre but Cole has been named among the replacements as Italian Martin Castrogiovanni gets the nod at tighthead.
Scott Hamilton returns from injury and Dan Bowden is back in the starting line-up as Anthony Allen is ruled out following his knock out last week against Bath.
James Ambrosini and Edoardo Gori will for a new look half-back partnership for the Italians as regular duo Alberto di Bernardo and Fabio Semenzato are on the bench.
Leicester: Tait; Hamilton, Tuilagi, Bowden, Goneva; Ford, B. Youngs; Ayerza, T. Youngs, Castrogiovanni; Kitchener, Parling (capt.); Slater, Salvi, Waldrom.
Replacements: Hawkins, Mulipola, Cole, Crane, Thorpe, Young, Murphy, Smith.
Treviso: McLean; Loamanu, Benvenuti, Morisi, Pratichetti; Ambrosini, Gori ; De Marchi, Sbaraglini, Fernandez-Rouyet ; Pavanello (capt.), Bernabò ; Favaro, Budd, Vosawai.
Replacements: Ghiraldini, Rizzo, Cittadini, Van Zyl, Minto, Derbyshire, Semenzato, Di Bernardo.
Prediction: With Toulouse and Ospreys in that pool, it will all be about bonus points and Leicester HAVE to get the five points on Sunday. They’ll be fine.
Toulouse v Ospreys
William Servat’s interim at hooker is truly over as the coach turned player sees the return of Gary Botha and Christopher Tolofua to face the Ospreys tomorrow.
French legend Servat retired at the end of last season but had to pick up the boots again as Toulouse saw all their hookers either injured or suspended in recent weeks. But Botha recovered from injury to start while youngster Tolofua is on the bench after seeing his suspension end this week.
Toulouse will have to do without Thierry Dusautoir for the occasion though as the France captain is still recovering from a knee injury which kept him out of the Autumn Series with Les Bleus.
He is replaced by Jean Bouilhou at flanker with Yohan Huget and Maxime Medard also coming for Clement Poitrenaud and Timoci Matanavou at full-back and winger.
Arrived earlier this week in Swansea, former All Black prop Campbell Johnstone will make his Ospreys debut after being named at tighthead for the Ospreys.
Alongside the Former Biarritz man Ross Jones, Scott Baldwin and James King will make their Heineken Cup debuts for the occasion from wing, hooker and No.8.
Dan Biggar and Kahn Fotuali’i form an experienced half-back partnership but could face a tough night against the huge French pack.
Toulouse: Huget; Medard, David, Fritz, Clerc; McAlister, Burgess; Steenkamp, Botha, Johnston; Millo-Chluski, Albacete; Bouilhou (capt.), Nyanga, Picamoles.
Replacements: Poux, Montes, Tolofua, Maestri, Lamboley, Maka, Doussain, Fickou.
Ospreys: Fussell; Ro. Jones, Bishop, Beck, Walker; Biggar, Fotuali’i (capt.); D. Jones, Baldwin, Johnstone; Gough, King; Ry. Jones, Tipuric, Bearman.
Replacements: Dyer, Bevington, Arhip, Peers, Lewis, Webb, Morgan, Isaacs.
Prediction: The Ospreys know what to expect in Toulouse, a huge pack trying to bully you to produce good ball for their lethal back line. If they can front up they could get some points out it. If not, they’ll be on the back end of a hiding. I’m worried the later could well happen tomorrow.
Pool 3
Connacht v Biarritz
Dan parks starts at fly-half as Connacht is eyeing a home win over Biarritz at the Sportsground tonight that would move them above the French side in the table.
The Irish province are just a point off BO, who themselves are four points off Harlequins at the top.
Ireland lock Mike McCarthy also starts while wing Fetu’u Vainikolo is a threat out wide.
Meanwhile, Biarritz have named their strongest available side with French international Dimitri Yachvili at scrum-half and Imanol Harinordoquy on the bench as he continues his recovery from injury.
Kiwi Mat Berquist is alongside Yachvili while Iain Balshaw, Taku Ngwenya, Charles Gimenez, Marcelo Bosch and Aled Brew form a very threatening back line.
Connacht: Henshaw; O’Halloran, Poolman, McSharry, Vainikolo; Parks, Marmion; Wilkinson, Harris-Wright, Loughney; Kearney, McCarthy; Browne, Faloon (capt.), McKeon.
Replacements: Reynecke, Buckley, Cooney, Qualter, O’Connor, O’Donohoe, Nikora, Jarvis.
Biarritz: Balshaw; Ngwenya, Gimenez, Bosch, Brew; Berquist, Yachvili (capt.); Barcella, August, Gomez-Kodela; Lund, Dubarry; Lauret, Guyot, Lakafia.
Replacements: Genevois, Synaeghel, Blaauw, Taele, Harinordoquy, Lesgourgues, Barraque, Burotu.
Prediction: It’s never easy to travel to Galway but if my boys want to qualify as best second, or even top if they beat Quins on the last round, they’ve got to get the double against the Irish. I’m hoping but I think their Heineken Cup experience will help them do it.
Zebre v Harlequins
Zebre welcome back a host of internationals as they host unbeaten, pool three leaders Harlequins at the  Stadio XXV Aprile on Saturday.
Mauro Bergamasco returns to open-side with Josh Sole and Quintin Geldenhuys coming back to team up in the second row.
In the backs, Italy international duo Matteo Pratichetti and Gonzalo Garcia will control things in midfield, whilst Luciano Orquera starts in the fly-half role.
Meanwhile, Mike Brown and Danny Care return from international duty with England to start at full-back and scrum-half respectively for Harlequins.
Matt Hopper is joined in the centres by Tom Casson with Nick Easter leading the side once again from No.8 in a forward pack that is unchanged from last week’s match with Worcester.
Ugo Monye and Ben Botica return from injury and are named among the replacements.
Darryl Marfo and Joe Trayfoot, who replaces the injured Tom Guest, will look to make their Heineken Cup debuts.
Zebre: Trevisan; Venditti, Garcia, Pratichetti, Sarto; Orquera, Tebaldi; Aguero, Festuccia, Ryan; Geldenhuys, Sole, Bergamasco, Van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: Giazzon, Perugini, Redolfini, Caffini, Ferrarini, Chillon, Pace, Buso.
Harlequins: Brown; Williams, Hopper, Casson, Smith; Evans, Care; Lambert, Gray, Johnston; Kohn, Robson; Fa’asavalu, Wallace, Easter (capt.).
Replacements: Buchanan, Marfo, Collier, Matthews, Trayfoot, Dickson, Botica, Monye.
Prediction: It’s not easy to travel to Italy but if Quins want to be considered as genuine contenders for the trophy they have to go there, do the job and come back with five points. They’ll do it.
Pool 4
Glasgow v Castres
Scott Wight will lead the Glasgow attack as the Scots seek their first Heineken Cup win of the season against Castres at Scotstoun tonight.
Wight comes in at fly-half for Duncan Weir following their 31-3 thumping received at Munster last week while club top-try-scorer Tommy Seymour also returns on the wing.
There is one more change in the starting XV as Springbok Josh Strauss comes back at No.8 in place of Ryan Wilson who moves to the bench.
Wilson will be joined on the bench by new-singing Sean Maitland who is set to make his Warriors debut tomorrow.
Former Warriors flyer and Scotland international Max Evans will line-up against his old side as he starts on the wing for Castres with former Worcester flyer Marcel Garvey on the onther.
Glasgow: Murchie; Seymour, Hogg, Horne, Van der Merwe; Wight, Pyrgos; Grant, Hall, Cusack; Swinson, Kellock (capt.); Harley, Barclay, Strauss.
Replacements: MaCarthur, Low, Reid, Ryder, Wilson, Matawalu, Weir, Maitland.
Castres: Martial; Garvey, Bai, Lamerat, Evans; Bernard, Kockott; Forrestier, Bonello, Wihongi; Rolland, Samson; Diarra, Bornman, Claassen (capt.).
Replacements: Rallier, Lazar, Peikrishvili, Wannenburg, Caballero, Sanchou, Bonnefond, Kirkpatrick.
Prediction: If Castres win they could have something to play for but they don’t travel well and Glasgow need to find some pride back after last week. The Scots might just snatch this one.
Northampton v Ulster
England duo Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood have been brought straight back into Northampton’s starting line-up as they prepare for a crucial Heineken Cup clash with Ulster at the Gardens tomorrow.
Lawes comes in for Mark Sorenson in the engine room while Wood, who was named man of the match in the emphatic win over the All Blacks last week, replaces Phil Dowson at openside.
With already one loss to their name, at Castres in the previous round, the Saints cannot afford another defeat or they would almost certainly wave goodbye to their qualification chances.
Eslewhere, Ben Foden and Dylan Harltey carry on their return from injury, which saw them miss the Autumn Test Series with England, by starting at full-back and hooker.
Mark Anscombe has named a strong side with Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne all included in the starting XV.
Springbok Pienaar comes in at scrumhalf, Wallace at inside centre and Kiwi Payne at full-back.
Tommy Bowe, who was on bench duty last weekend, will line out on the right wing for his 50th Heineken Cup appearance. That means Andrew Trimble switches to the left at the expense of new Ireland cap Craig Gilroy.
Up front, Ireland internationals Rory Best and Tom Court replace Rob Herring and Callum Black in the front row while captain Johann Muller is joined in the second row by regular partner Dan Tuohy.
Chris Henry returns at openside in a back row which has the luxury of having the impact of Nick Williams off the bench.
Northampton: Foden; K. Pisi, G. Pisi, Waldouck, Elliott; Lamb, Roberts; Tonga’uiha, Hartley (capt.), Mujati; Manoa, Lawes; Clark, Wood, Van Velze.
Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Doran-Jones, Sorenson, Dowson, Dickson, Myler, May.
Ulster: Payne; Bowe, Cave, Wallace, Trimble; Jackson, Pienaar; Court, Best, Afoa; Muller (capt.), Tuohy; Henderson, Henry, Wilson;
Replacements: Brady, Black, Lutton, Diack, Williams, P. Marshall, L. Marshall, Gilroy.
Prediction: Heineken Cup pool games rarely come any bigger than that. This will be a huge game. Northampton cannot lose while Ulster have made the European Cup their main goal this year. This will be fierce up front. If lamb can control the game well Saints could do it. I’m going to trust him and go for a narrow Saints win.
Pool 5
Clermont v Leinster
Clermont have selected their strongest side for the reception of Heineken Cup champions Leinster at the stade Marcel Michellin on Sunday in a remake of last year’s epic semi-final.
Lee Byrne, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Napoleoni Nalaga all return to form a lethat back three while Brock James will lead the attack getting the nod over David Skrela at fly-half.
Up front, Lion Nathan Hines will partner Canadian powerhouse Jamie Cudmore in the second row.
Jonathan Sexton will make his 100th appearance for Leinster after being named at fly-half and will partner Isaac Boss at half back.
It will be a case of experience and youth in the centre with Gordon D’Arcy set to become the most capped Leinster player in Heineken Cup history making his 88th European appearance while Andrew Goodman will make his tournament debut inside him.
Up front, Leo Cullen leads the team in an all-Ireland pack with Richardt Strauss and Shane Jennings also on the bench.
Clermont : Byrne; Sivivatu, Rougerie (capt.), Fofana, Nalaga; James, Parra; Debaty, Kayser, Zirakashvili; Cudmore, Hines; Bonnaire, Lapandry, Chouly.
Remplacments: Paulo, Chaume, Kotze, Pierre, Bardy, Radolsavljevic, Skrela, King.
Leinster: Madigan; McFadden, D’Arcy, Goodman, Nacewa; Sexton, Boss; Healy, Cronin, Ross; Cullen (capt.), Browne; McLaughlin, O’Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Strauss, McGrath, Bent, Toner, Jennings, Reddan, Carr, Conway.
Prediction:  This is THE game of the season! Clermont will go all out to put one past their biggest rivals to Heineken Cup glory over the past two seasons. If Clermont were the double Heineken Cup winners it would be truly deserved but they found Leinster on their way. This time around though, the Irish will have to face a yellow tsunami and concede defeat. 
Scarlets v Exeter
The Scarlets welcome back six of their Welsh internationals into the starting line-up for the clash against Exeter Chiefs tomorrow at Parc y Scarlets.
Jonathan Davies captains the side alongside centre partner Scott Williams with Liam Williams starting on the wing.
Young scrum-half Aled Davies gets his first European start with Rhys Priestland returning to the No.10 jersey.
Up front, Matthew Rees starts at hooker and there is a call-up for young prop Samson Lee.
Aaron Shingler is at blindside with places on the bench for Tavis Knoyle and Sione Timani.
With both sides chasing their first wins in the competition this season, the Chiefs will be brimming with confidence following a run of five successive victories in all competitions.
Rob Baxter has made six changes that include a start for former Scarlets lock Damian Welch.
Internationals Gonzalo Camacho and Sireli Naqelevuki come in for youngster Jack Nowell and Phil Dollman, who hobbled off towards the end of last weekend’s win against Wasps.
There are four changes in the pack, Welch replaces James Hanks while Simon Alcott comes in for Chris Whitehead, and Hoani Tui takes over from Carl Rimmer.
Tom Johnson is back on the flank in place of Dean Mumm.
Scarlets: Newton; Williams, J. Davies (capt.), Williams, Fenby; Priestland, A. Davies; John, Rees, Lee;  Earle, Kelly; Shingler, Edwards,Murphy.
Replacements: Owens, Hopkins, Adriaanse, Synman, Timani, Knoyle, Thomas, Maul.
Exeter: Arscott; Camacho, Naqelevuki, Shoemark, Jess; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Alcott, Tui, Hayes, Welch, Johnson, Scaysbrook, Baxter.
Replacements: Clark, Moon, Rimmer, Muldowney, Mumm, Barrett, Mieres, Whitten.
Prediction: Exeter did well in the first two rounds against the two best teams in Europe but they’ve got to show they’ve learnt their lessons and get something out of this game to come back to Sandy Park next week full of confidence. But the Scarlets are a tough cookie at home and they should win with their Welsh start back.
Pool 6
Cardiff Blues v Montpellier
With Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Bradley Davies all suffering injuries while on international duty with Wales last month, Phil Davies’ selection has been restricted for the reception of Montpellier on Sunday.
Jason Tovey, Dafydd Hewitt and Lou Reed start at full-back, inside centre and lock in place of the Welsh start but the Blues can count on the return of Wales captain Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert at openside and winger respectively as they seek their first European win of the campaign.
Montpellier have shuffled their side  to travel to the Arms Park with Puma Santiago Fernandez staring at fly-half.
Up front Georgian giant Mamuka Gorgodze starts at openside.
Cardiff Blues: Tovey; Cuthbert, Evans, Hewitt, Robinson; Patchell, L. Williams; Hobbs, Breeze, Andrews; Reed, Down; Navidi, Warburton, Pretorius (capt.).
Replacements: R. Wiliams, Filise, Bourrust, Cook, Copeland, Jones, Sweeney, O. Williams.
Montpellier: Thiery; Audrin, Combezou, Bosch, Berard; Fernandez, Paillaugue; Nariashvili, Creevy, Bustos; Hancke, Fakate; Bias, Gorgodze, Beattie.
Replacements: Van Vuuren, Watremez, Fa’amausili, De Marco, Galletier, Escande, Hape/Perraux; Nagusa/Artru.
Prediction: The Blues need to win and they won’t have an easier opportunity. They’re not in the best form but they should win this one. They have to win this one or it will be a long season!
Sale v Toulon
Sale have chosen to start Rob Miller at fly-half ahead of the benched Danny Cipriani for tomorrow’s clash with Toulon at Salford City Stadium.
Jonny Leota and Corne Uys are the centres who line-up against Mathieu Bastareaud and Matt Giteau.
In the pack, Tony Buckley, Tommy Taylor and Ross Harrison pack down in the front row as Fraser NcKenzie and Richie Gray are the locks.
Andy Powell is on the bench as head coach John Mitchell selects a back-row trio of James Gaskell, David Seymour and Richie Vernon.
Already five points ahead of the rest of the teams in their group after two wins over Montpellier and Cardiff Blues, Toulon have named a strong starting side.
Delon Armitage wears the full-back jersey and the half-back pairing once again sees Jonny Wilkinson team up with Frederic Michalak.
Andrew Sheridan and Carl Hayman are the props with Bakkies Botha and Jocelino Suta in the second row.
Steffon Armitage is at openside, Juan Fernandez is at blindside and powerhouse Chris Masoe starts at No. 8.
Sale: Shepherd; Jennings, Uys, Leota, Cueto;  Miller, Cliff; Harrison, Taylor, Buckley; Gray, McKenzie; Gaskell, Seymour, Vernon.
Replacements: Cruise, Lewis-Roberts, Cobilas, Myall, Powell, Fowles, Cipriani, Amesbury.
Toulon: D. Armitage, Wulf, Bastareaud, Giteau, Smith; Wilkinson, Michalak; Sheridan, Bruno, Hayman; Botha, Suta; Fernandez Lobbe, S. Armitage, Masoe.
Replacements: Orioli, Chiocci, Kubriashvili, Gunther, Kennedy, Mermoz, Tillous-Borde, Shaw.
Prediction: Toulon have been underachieving in recent season but this year they are a big machine. Sale has the opportunity to make a big statement here but the mountain will just be too big. A losing bonus point will be a good results for the Sharks.

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