Three fixtures take place on Sunday in Round One of the European Champions Cup, starting with Connacht hosting Montpellier in Galway.
Connacht v Montpellier
Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht starting team to face Montpellier in the opening round of the Champions Cup at the Sportsground on Sunday.
Irish international Bundee Aki is also set for his first start since the World Cup, following his appearance off the bench against Leinster last weekend.
The return of Aki and Dillane comes as a boost to Andy Friend and his coaching team as Connacht return to Champions Cup action after a two year absence. Dillane comes into the second-row alongside Sligo man and former Ireland U20 international Cillian Gallagher.
In the front row, the inclusion of Dominic Robertson-McCoy is the only change from last weekend. The tighthead prop lines up alongside experienced hooker Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley at loosehead.
In the back-row, Colby Fainga’a comes in at blindside with Jarrad Butler at openside and Paul Boyle in his now familiar number eight jersey.
Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their halfback partnership and with Irish international Kieran Marmion on the injured list, Stephen Kerins is named as the replacement scrum-half for the second game in a row.
Aki will partner Kyle Godwin in midfield while the back three is made up of Darragh Leader at full-back with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.
Meanwhile, scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue captains a Montpellier team who will be keen to return to the victory trail after drawing with Toulon in a Top 14 encounter last weekend.
Paillaugue forms a halfback partnership with All Black Aarong pivot while Springbok Jan Serfontein and Arthur Vincent start in midfield. Gabriel N’gandebe and Yvan Reilhac are the starting wings and Anthony Bouthier will line up at full-back.
In the forwards, Wallaby Caleb Timu starts at number eight and is joined in the back-row by Les Bleus flankers Yacouba Camara and Kelian Galletier while Paul Willemse and Nico Janse van Rensburg pack down in the second-row.
The front-row comprises props Mohamed Haouas and Mikheil Nariashvili and Youri Delhommel, who is the hooker.
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (c), 6 Colby Fainga’a, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Cillian Gallagher, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley Replacements: 16 David Heffernan, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Tom Daly, 23 John Porch
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Gabriel N’gandebe, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12.Jan Serfontein, 11 Yvan Reilhac, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Benoit Paillaugue (c), 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Kelian Galletier, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Youri Delhommel, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili Replacements: 16 Bismarck Du Plessis, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Jannie Du Plessis, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Julien Bardy, 22 Henry Immelman, 23.Jacques Du Plessis
Venue: The Sportsground Kick-off: 13:00 GMT Referee: Matthew Carley (England) Assistant referees: Tom Foley (England), Simon McConnell (England) TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Northampton Saints v Lyon
Matt Proctor and Owen Franks could both make their Northampton Saints debuts off the bench on Sunday, with Chris Boyd calling on his international reinforcements for this weekend’s Champions Cup opener.
The Kiwi director of rugby has made six changes to the Saints side that lost away at Bath last weekend, with Dan Biggar, Cobus Reinach, Piers Francis, Courtney Lawes, and Lewis Ludlam all returning at Franklin’s Gardens from Rugby World Cup duty.
Alex Waller and Teimana Harrison will lead Northampton on Sunday as the men in black, green and gold return to Europe’s top flight and look to recreate their run to glory on the 20th anniversary of the club’s title.
Boyd makes three changes to the pack with Waller recovering from a knock to join Mikey Haywood and Ehren Painter in the front-row, while Lawes is unleashed in the engine room alongside the in-form David Ribbans.
Ludlam plays at openside flanker with Harrison in the number eight jersey and Tom Wood rounding off the back-row.
Biggar and World Cup winner Reinach will look to reignite the half-back partnership that steered Saints into the Premiership semi-finals last season, while the only other change to Northampton’s back-line sees Piers Francis come into the midfield to join Scotland international Rory Hutchinson.
The hosts’ back three of Tom Collins, Taqele Naiyaravoro and full-back George Furbank remains unchanged, but amongst the replacements are All Blacks Proctor and Franks – who will both pull on the black, green and gold jersey for the first time and are set to make their Club debuts if they enter the action.
Meanwhile, Top 14 pacesetters Lyon have made eight alterations to their run-on side after their win over La Rochelle last weekend.
In the backline, Jean-Marcellin Buttin replaces Toby Arnold at full-back while Pato Fernandez and captain Jonathan Pélissié take over from Jonathan Wisniewski and Baptiste Couilloud at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.
In the forwards, Carl Fearns comes in for Mathieu Bastareaud at number eight while Liam Gill is preferred to Dylan Cretin on the openside flank.
In the second-row, Killian Geraci replaces Etienne Oosthuizen and there’s a new front-row with Clément Ric and Raphael Chaume the starting props and Jeremie Maurouard will wear the number two jersey.
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller (c) Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Lyon: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Pato Fernandez, 9 Jonathan Pélissié (c), 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Patrick Sobela, 6 Liam Gill, 5 Loann Goujon, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Raphael Chaume Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Hamza Kaabèche, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Hendrik Roodt, 20 Virgile Bruni, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Jonathan Wisniewski, 23 Thibaut Regard
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens Kick-off: 13:00 GMT Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland) Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Robert O’Sullivan (Ireland) TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Racing 92 v Saracens
Racing 92 have made just one alteration to their starting line-up after beating Parisian rivals Stade Français in their Top 14 derby last weekend.
The only change comes in the forwards where Cedate Gomes Sa replaces Ali Oz at tighthead prop. The side will be captained by Henry Chavancy, who forms a centre pairing with Virimi Vakatawa while Finn Russell and Maxime Machenaud are the halfbacks.
Elsewhere, Antonie Claassen lines up at number eight while Baptiste Chouzenoux start on the flanks Wenceslas Lauret with Boris Palu and Donnacha Ryan packing down in the second-row.
Meanwhile, Jackson Wray will earn his 50th Champions Cup cap when Saracens take On Racing 92 at Paris La Defense Arena.
The Sarries Academy graduate made his debut in the competition back in 2012 and has played a key part in the Men in Black’s three European title successes.
Continuing as captain, Wray leads a team which contains three tournament debutants and a further two players making their first starts.
Fly-half Manu Vunipola is set for his first strides in Europe as is winger Rotimi Segun while hooker Jack Singleton, who has featured in the Challenge Cup, earns the number two shirt on his second appearance for his hometown club.
Callum Hunter-Hill and Matt Gallagher are also in from the outset with the former’s inclusion seeing Nick Isiekwe take a spot on the flank. Wales international Rhys Carre will make his maiden Sarries outing at loosehead, replacing Ralph Adams-Hale who suffered a season-ending injury last time out.
After helping South Africa win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Vincent Koch returns to club action as a replacement and fellow Springbok Damian Willemse is back in the mix at 22.
Academy trio Sam Crean, Joel Kpoku and Sean Reffell could earn their first European stripes from the bench.
Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Boris Palu, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Yoan Tanga, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Simon Zebo
Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Roti Segun, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray (c), 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Rhys Carre Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Sam Crean, 18 Vincent Koch, 19.Joel Kpoku, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley,22 22 Damian Willemse, 23 Duncan Taylor
Venue: Paris La Défense Arena Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT) Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland) Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland) TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)