Champions Cup pool previews
Wasps and Exeter Chiefs eager to secure wins that will put them back in contention
Former Leinster centre Brendan Macken is included in Wasps’ midfield for their pivotal clash with Harlequins at The Stoop. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Champions Cup previews
Former Leinster centre Brendan Macken is included in the Wasps midfield for their pivotal clash with Harlequins at The Stoop (live on Sky Sports). Marty Moore starts on the bench for Dai Young’s side. Former England captain Chris Robshaw (calf) misses out for Harlequins while teenage outhalf Marcus Smith is named among the replacements. It’s a must-win game for Wasps, who host Ulster in the final round of pool matches. Despite losing all four pool matches, ’Quins will want to win this one as there is no love lost between the clubs.
Clermont Auvergne have been ravaged by injuries, down 17 players, at one point during the season and that partially explains their 58-6 thumping by Racing 92 in the French Top14 last weekend as they have prioritised Europe over the domestic league. Alan Gaffney has made an immediate impact at Northampton Saints and this could be a tricky tie for the unbeaten visitors. Defending champions Saracens must win against the rejuvenated Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium or they’re as good as out.
The Exeter Chiefs know that a bonus point win over Montpellier at Sandy Park will put them back in the mix for a place in the playoffs as one of three best runners-up while the French side know that they need a similar outcome if they are to catch Leinster who they face in the final round of matches, assuming the Irish province beat Glasgow on Sunday. The Chiefs have picked a strong side that includes Irishmen Gareth Steenson and Ian Whitten.
Castres Olympique host the Leicester Tigers will little more than academic interest in the knockout stage of the competition but from an Irish perspective it’s interesting to note that former Leinster flanker Dominic Ryan starts for the first time since an enforced sabbatical due to concussion issues last autumn and that ex-Ireland Under-20 international and Munster academy tighthead Ben Betts is among the replacements. The Tigers have rested a host of front-line players so the home side will be strong favourites.
Toulon almost got a nasty fright when these two sides met in Italy and it took a late score to allow the three-time European champions to escape with a victory. Matters should be less fraught this time and a four-try bonus point win would put them firmly in contention for pool honours albeit that they must travel to Llanelli next weekend to take on the Scarlets. Treviso, despite their fine performance in the first fixture, will struggle to replicate that competitiveness here.