Rugby: European Champions Cup previews

Pool fixtures and team line-outs

Saturday Pool4 Castres Olympique v Northampton Saints, Stade Pierre Antoine (3.15, Sky Sports 2) – England captain and hooker Dylan Hartley, fellow English internationals Courtney Lawes and New Zealand-born flanker Teimana Harrison return to the Saints pack. Rory Hutchinson and James Wilson start in the backline.

JJ Hanrahan is still injured. Northampton required a late penalty goal to squeeze past Montpellier last week while Castres were well beaten at the RDS. French international scrumhalf Rory Kockott and Argentine wing Horacio Agulla are two of four Castres changes. The last six matches between these teams in Europe has been won by the home side, a trend that may continue.

CASTRES: G Palis; H Agulla, T Combezou, R Ebersohn, D Smith; B Urdapilleta, R Kockott; A Tichit, J Jenneker, D Kotze; L Jacquet, V Moreaux; M Babillot, A Jelonch, A Tulou. Replacements: B Mach, M Lazar, Y Montes, T Lassale, A Bias, A Dupont, J Dumora, F Vialelle.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: B Foden; J Wilson, R Hutchinson, H Mallinder, G North; S Myler, N Groom; A Waller, D Hartley, K Brookes; C Lawes, M Paterson; T Wood, T Harrison, L Picamoles. Replacements: M Haywood, E Waller, P Hill, A Ratuniyarawa, J Gibson, L Dickson, N Tuitavake, A Tuala.


Referee: I Davies (Wales).

Pool 5

Clermont Auvergne v Bordeaux Begles, Stade Marcel Michelin (3.15, Sky Sports 3) – Clermont coach Frank Azema has made three changes from the side that thumped the Exeter Chiefs, all of them up front where Paul Jedrasiak, Camille Gerondeau and Alexandre Lapandry start. Bordeaux have made wholesale changes from the team that beat Ulster including resting Wallaby international Adam Ashley Cooper and a try scorer last week Blair O'Connor. The three quarter line has changed while there are a further five alterations in the pack. Ian Madigan retains the starting role at outhalf. A Anything other than a handsome home win would be a a surprise.

CLERMONT: N Abendanon; D Strettle, R Lamerat, W Fofana, N Nakaitaci; C Lopez, M Parra; T Domingo, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili; P Jedrasiak, S Vahaamahina; J Bardy, A Lapandry, C Gerondeau. Replacements: N Charles, E Falgoux, C Ric, S Timani, J Cancoriet, L Radosavljevic , P Fernandez, A Rougerie.

BORDEAUX BEGLES: JM Buttin; M Talebulamaijaina, J Spence, J Wakacegu, K Van Wyk; I Madigan, Y Lesgourgues; S Taofifenua, C Maynadier, M Clerc; T Palmer, C Cazeaux; L Braid, H Chalmers, M Tauleigne. Replacements: B Auzqui, S Kitshoff, JB Poux, O Avei, T Labouteley, J Audy, L Beauxis, JB Dubié.

Referee: G Garner (England).


Saracens v Scarlets, Allianz Park (5.30, Sky Sports 2) – Mark McCall's Saracens, the reigning European and Premiership champions, made a boldly impressive statement in defence of their title last week in travelling to Toulon last week and winning handsomely (31-23), bringing to an end their hosts' proud record at the Stade Felix Mayol.

Schalk Brits and Jim Hamilton are promoted to the starting team. The Scarlets beat Sale Sharks in their opening fixture and while they have plenty of quality behind the scrum, they may suffer up front.

SARACENS: A Goode; S Maitland, M Bosch, B Barritt, C Wyles; O Farrell, R Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, S Brits, J Figallo; M Itoje, J Hamilton; M Rhodes, S Burger, B Vunipola. Replacements: J George, R Barrington, P du Plessis, K Brown, J Wray, B Spencer, A Lozowski, M Ellery.

SCARLETS: L Williams; DTH van der Merwe, J Davies, S Williams, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; W Jones, K Owens, S Lee; J Ball, D Bulbring; A Shingler, W Boyde, J Barclay. Replacements: R Elias, L Garrett, W Kruger, L Rawlins, J Macleod, J Evans, D Jones, H Parkes.

Referee: P Gauzere (France)


Pool 2

Toulouse v Wasps, Stade Earnest Wallon (3.15, BT Sport 2) The French club will be smarting from last week's defeat to Connacht. Gael Fickou and Toby Flood are promoted to the starting team along with Yohan Maestri, Dorian Aldegheri and Thierry Dusautoir up front.

Wasps will have learnt precious little from their annihilation of Zebre and their coach Dai Young anticipates a fired up Toulouse. "Their result last weekend probably didn't help us much. They will be hurting a little bit. They have a very big pack of forwards and we're going to have to stand up to that." Ireland international Marty Moore is on the bench having recovered from injury.

TOULOUSE: M Médard; Y Huget, G Fickou, Y David, P Perez; T Flood, S Bézy; C Baille, C Tolofua, D Aldegheri; Y Maestri, J Tekori; F Cros, T Dusautoir, C Axtens. Replacements: L Ghiraldini, G Steenkamp, C Johnston, G Lamboley, P Faasalele, JM Doussain, F Fritz, K Kunabuli.

WASPS: J Gopperth; C Wade, E Daly, K Eastmond, J Bassett; D Cipriani, D Robson; M Mullan, T Taylor, J Cooper-Woolley; J Launchbury, M Symons; A Johnson, T Young, N Hughes. Replacements: T Cruse, T Bristow, M Moore, K Myall, G Thompson, J Simpson, R Miller, A Leiua.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland)

Pool 1

Leicester Tigers v Racing 92, Welford Road (5.30, BT Sport 2) Former Ireland Under-20 player George McGuigan is among the replacements for Leicester who were thumped 42-13 away to the Glasgow . They'll take heart from their visitors' poor away form in the Top 14; it's a repeat of last season's semi-final which Racing won. Clontarf-born scrumhalf James Hart is among the Racing replacements.

LEICESTER TIGERS: T Veainu; A Thompstone, M Tait, M To'omua, JP Pietersen; O Williams, B Youngs; M Ayerza, T Youngs, D Cole; E Slater, D Barrow; M Fitzgerald, B O'Connor, L McCaffrey. Replacements: G McGuigan, L Mulipola, G Bateman, G Kitchener, W Evans, S Harrison, F Burns, P Betham.

RACING 92: B Dulin; J Rokocoko, J Goosen, H Chavancy, J Imhoff; D Carter, M Machenaud; E Ben Arous, C Chat, B Tameifuna; L Nakarawa, M Carizza; W Lauret, Y Nyanga, C Masoe. Replacements: V Lacombe, V Afatia, L Ducalcon, F van der Merwe, T Dubarry, J Hart, A Vulivuli, A Tuitavake.

Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer