Week­end pre­views and team news

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP - byJohnO’Sul­li­van

To­day Pool Five Mont­pel­lier v New­cas­tle Fal­cons GGL sta­dium (1.0, Ir­ish time, live on BT Sport)

The Fal­cons pro­duced a mem­o­rable fin­ish to pick­pocket the French club at the death when the sides met in New­cas­tle ear­lier in the tour­na­ment but Mont­pel­lier are strong favourites to re­verse that re­sult with a team that in­cludes Ruan Pien­aar, one of sev­eral high-pro­file South Africans. New­cas­tle in­clude for­mer Ire­land Un­der-20 in­ter­na­tional Brett Con­non on the bench.

Pool One Bath v Wasps Re­cre­ation Ground (3.15, live on BT Sport)

Both teams are short of a plethora of front-line play­ers for a match that will have no ma­te­rial im­pact on Pool 1 as nei­ther can qual­ify. Bath have cho­sen to name Spring­bok in­ter­na­tional Fran­cois Louw among the re­place­ments even in the ab­sence of the in­jured Sam Underhill. Given the man­ner both teams like to play it should be en­ter­tain­ing, with the home side slightly favoured to shade it.

Pool Four Scar­lets v Le­ices­ter Tigers Parc y Scar­lets (5.30, live on BT Sport)

The Scar­lets’ form has been patchy in re­cent times and it cer­tainly hasn’t been helped by a raft of in­juries to back five play­ers in the pack. Wales hooker Ken Owens is once again asked to play in the back­row and will cap­tain the side from num­ber eight. Jonathan Davies is an ab­sen­tee. The Tigers have one of the best young play­ers in Eng­land in Jor­dan Olowofela on a wing and should be com­pet­i­tive given the re­spec­tive teams. Pool Five Toulon v Ed­in­burgh Stade Felix Mayol (5.30, Ir­ish time, live on BT Sport)

The three-time cham­pi­ons Toulon have been mas­sive un­der­achiev­ers in Europe this sea­son based on their play­ing ros­ter alone and in­clude a home de­feat to New­cas­tle. Ed­in­burgh lead the way in the pool and could lay down a mas­sive state­ment if they could find a way to win against op­po­nents with lit­tle to play for in the greater scheme of things.

To­mor­row Pool Two Ex­eter Chiefs v Cas­tres Olympique Sandy Park (1.0, live on BT Sport)

In by far the most com­pet­i­tive pool this is a must-win game for both teams as they con­tinue their pur­suit of Mun­ster and a place in the knock­out stages of the com­pe­ti­tion. The Chiefs wel­come back Eng­land in­ter­na­tional Jack Now­ell fol­low­ing a ham­string in­jury sus­tained with Eng­land in Novem­ber. Ir­ish pair Gareth Steen­son (in­set) and Ian Whit­ten are named among the re­place­ments. Cas­tres have named a strong side but Ex­eter should be good enough to win this one.

Pool Three Glas­gow War­riors v Cardiff Blues Scot­stoun (3.15, live on BT Sport)

Glas­gow will be hop­ing to clam­ber their way out of what has been a mini-slump in the Guin­ness Pro14 of late that has seen them over­taken by Mun­ster at the top of the Con­fer­ence A. They make 11 changes from the side beaten by Benet­ton last week­end as they try to main­tain their pur­suit of Sara­cens at the top of Pool 3. The Blues have noth­ing to play for os­ten­si­bly but it will be a poignant oc­ca­sion as Tom James plays his first game since 2017, side­lined be­cause of de­pres­sion, and hooker Matthew Rees is an­other long-term ab­sen­tee who re­turns. Glas­gow, de­spite re­cent tra­vails have to pick up a bonus-point win.

Lyon v Sara­cens Mat­mut sta­dium de Ger­land (3.15, Ir­ish time, live on BT Sport)

Maro Itoje re­turns fol­low­ing a five-match ab­sence due to a knee in­jury while hooker Jamie Ge­orge and flanker Jack­son Wray are the other changes up front. New Zealand-born Scot­tish in­ter­na­tional Sean Mait­land re­places Dave Stret­tle on the wing with the lat­ter drop­ping to the re­place­ments. Lyon are with­out a point in the tour­na­ment to date but they have still se­lected a strong side. Pride will be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor for the home side but they look over­matched.

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