Saturday’s Champions Cup Round 2 fixtures: Leinster vs Northampton Saints (1pm), Gloucester vs Ulster (3.15pm), Clermont vs Munster (5.30pm), Sale Sharks vs Edinburgh (8pm), Bordeaux Begles vs Dragons (8pm). Glasgow Warriors vs Lyon and La Rochelle vs Bath cancelled due to Covid-19
Ahead of Saturday’s five Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 fixtures, which include a clash between European heavyweights Clermont and Munster, we take a look at how each club got on last week, their key men and all the latest team news…
Leinster vs Northampton, 1pm
Last Week: Things could hardly have gone better for Leinster last week, as they registered a first bonus-point victory in France since 2011, and only the second in their history.
Travelling to Montpellier, Leo Cullen’s charges were quick out of the blocks with a Josh van der Flier try on four minutes, which seemed to kill the interest of the hosts, before Leinster added further tries from Ciaran Frawley, Dave Kearney, Dan Leavy and Jimmy O’Brien in a 35-14 win.
Northampton on the other end endured an immensely frustrating opening clash at home to Bordeaux.
Having led the game from the sixth minute to the 40th, and then from the 43rd to the 72nd due to four Dan Biggar penalties, a somewhat fluky Santiago Cordero try (reacting to a penalty hitting the post to score) late on, ensured the visitors claimed a 16-12 victory.
The defeat all but ended Northampton coach Chris Boyd’s interest in the European Cup for this season, as he admitted post-match he would rotate his squad from now on.
Key men: Leinster will be seeking a bonus-point win and nothing less when they welcome Northampton to Dublin. As such, the decision-making, leadership and performance quality of skipper Rhys Ruddock in the back-row mark him out as central.
Saints will look to gain a first victory of the season, having lost all three of their games in the Premiership this season. In fact, they are now on a losing run of 12 straight fixtures stretching back to last season. Alex Waller captains the side from prop on his 50th European Cup appearance – can his leadership bring about a change in fortunes?
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Caelan Doris.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Dan Leavy.
Northampton Saints: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 George Furbank, 9 Tom James; 1 Alex Waller (c), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Alex Moon, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Shaun Adendorff.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Matt Proctor.
Gloucester vs Ulster, 3.15pm
Last Week: While Northampton said they will now change tack after a home loss in Round 1, Gloucester went one better and actually, bizarrely enough, sent a reserve side to France for Round 1 in the European Cup.
Missing several players to injury and having left out seven further first-teamers just because, Gloucester were duly hammered 55-10 at Lyon – a record European defeat for the club.
Ulster began their campaign with the tough prospect of last season’s semi-finalists Toulouse at home, and though they more than held their own in the contest, the finishing ability of Cheslin Kolbe proved crucial as Toulouse registered a 29-22 away win.
Key men: For Gloucester, Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit returns to start and will hope to provide the sort of spark and attacking flair he became known for last season.
Ulster, after a home defeat last week, know their European survival rests on a victory at Kingsholm. Billy Burns is back from injury at 10, and having impressed more often than not in Ulster white, he will be key if they are to progress in Europe.
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Charlie Chapman; 1 Val Rapava Ruskin , 2 Jack Singleton , 3 Ciaran Knight, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Matías Alemanno, 6 Jordy Reid, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Seb Nagle-Taylor, 21 Toby Venner, 22 George Barton, 23 Henry Trinder.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns (c), 9 John Cooney; 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Marty Moore, 4 Alan O’Connor, 5 David O’Connor, 6 Sean Reidy, 7 Jordi Murphy, 8 Nick Timoney.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Matt Rea, 20 Greg Jones, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ethan McIlroy.
Clermont Auvergne vs Munster, 5.30pm
Last Week: Clermont began with a tricky looking test away at Bristol last week, but the perennial underachievers were in sensational form as they won 51-38 in stunning fashion.
Clermont backs Kotaro Matsushima (three), Apisai Naqalevu and Damian Penaud (two) each notched tries, as did No 8 Fritz Lee in the bonus-point victory, with Camille Lopez adding two penalties and five conversions.
Munster began by welcoming Harlequins to Thomond Park, and though they pulled off a convincing 21-7 victory after a penalty try and Gavin Coombes try, they may yet regret not claiming the bonus-point. They also lost Ben Healy to injury, which is a blow to the province.
Key men: Clermont may have a superb squad, but one area in which they are struggling for the weekend is in the second row, with injuries to Sebastien Vahaamahina, Sitaleki Timani and Arthur Iturria. As such, Fijian Peceli Yato – ordinarily a powerful running back-row – lines out at lock, and he will have to go well for the Clermont set-piece to function.
For Munster, their crisis area is loosehead prop. With Dave Kilcoyne out, Jeremy Loughman only just back training and James Cronin – who was playing outstandingly well – picking up a training injury, academy prop Josh Wycherley starts. With Ben Healy and Joey Carbery also out at 10, there is huge pressure on JJ Hanrahan to perform.
ASM Clermont Auvergne: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 George Moala, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez (c), 9 Sébastien Bézy; 1 Peni Ravai, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 5 Peceli Yato, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 7 Clement Lanen, 8 Fritz Lee.
Replacements: 16 Adrien Pélissié, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Thibaud Lanen, 20 Edward Annandale, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams, 23 Tavite Veredamu.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Shane Daly, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Josh Wycherley, 2 Rhys Marshall, 3 Stephen Archer, 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Gavin Coombes, 7 Peter O’Mahony (c), 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 John Ryan, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Billy Holland, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Jack O’Donoghue.
Bordeaux Begles vs Dragons, 8pm
Last Week: As mentioned above, Bordeaux began their European campaign in ideal fashion in Round 1, picking up a priceless away victory at Northampton with Cordero’s late try. With struggling Dragons to come, the Top 14 outfit are exceptionally well-placed for a quarter-final now.
Dragons stuck into the fight last week at home to Wasps, but eventually caved as serious scrum issues were the death of them. In the end, Wasps scored two late tries to wrap up a bonus-point too, winning 24-8 at Rodney Parade.
Key men: Wing Cordero is always a massive threat, but blindside flanker Cameron Woki was superb in the victory at Franklins Gardens, and will look to come to the fore again.
The Dragons melted at scrum time against Wasps, and as such Lloyd Fairbrother has replaced Aaron Jarvis at tighthead prop. Can Fairbrother add some much-needed set-piece solidity?
Bordeaux Begles: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Yoram Falatea-Moefana, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu; 1 Thierry Paiva, 2 Maxime Lamothe, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Kane Douglas, 5 Cyril Cazeaux, 6 Cameron Woki, 7 Mahamadou Diaby (c), 8 Scott Higginbotham.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Zakaria El Fakir, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Marco Tauleigne, 21 Jules Gimbert, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Pablo Uberti.
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Davies (c), 9 Tavis Knoyle; 1 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Joe Davies, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 6 Huw Taylor, 7 Taine Basham, 8 Lewis Evans.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Conor Maguire, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 James Benjamin, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Aneurin Owen, 23 Owen Jenkins.
Sale Sharks vs Edinburgh, 8pm
Key men: Defeat for either of these will likely end their European hopes. Faf de Klerk came off the bench for Sale last week to provide a major impact, and he will be very important for the Sharks.
For Edinburgh, Bill Mata returns to the back-row and he was crucial the last time the Scottish club made the quarter-finals in Europe in 2019.
Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk (c); 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4 Matthew Postlethwaite, 5 JP du Preez, 6 Jacobus Wiese, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Connor Doherty, 23 Luke James.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Jack Blain, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Charlie Shiel; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Ben Toolis, 5 Jamie Hodgson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Viliame Mata.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 WP Nel, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 James Johnstone.
Glasgow Warriors C-C Lyon & La Rochelle C-C Bath
Originally, there were seven Round 2 games scheduled for Saturday, but two have unfortunately fallen to Covid-19 related cancellations.
An outbreak in the Exeter Chiefs squad initially saw their Sunday fixture with Toulouse cancelled. Because Glasgow had played Exeter the week before, they then had a huge proportion of players in self-isolation, so their clash with Lyon was cancelled too.
Then, La Rochelle vs Bath fell victim to a cancellation as Bath revealed a Scarlets played had tested positive for Covid-19 following their game in Round 1.