There are six Champions Cup matches scheduled to take place on Saturday with Leinster’s showdown with Toulouse the standout fixture.
Montpellier v Newcastle Falcons
Montpellier head coach Vern Cotter has rung the changes to his starting line-up for this clash with Newcastle Falcons.
Cotter has made 10 changes in all after last weekend’s surprise home loss to Lyon. In the back-line, Yvan Reilhac comes in at inside centre where he replaces Jan Serfontein while Henry Immelman is preferred to Nemani Nadolo on the left wing and Ruan Pienaar takes over from Benoit Paillaugue at scrum-half.
There are changes aplenty in the forwards with Nico Janse van Rensburg the only survior from that defeat to Lyon. Janse van Rensburg packs down in the second-row alongside Konstantine Mikautadze, who comes in for Paul Willemse.
At number eight, Louis Picamoles replaces Jacques Du Plessis and the France international will also captain the side. Kevin Kornath and Kelian Galletier are the two flankers and they take over from Yacouba Camara and Fulgence Ouedraogo.
In the front-row, Jannie Du Plessis and Grégory Fichten replace Antoine Guillamon and Mikheil Nariashvili as the starting props and Vincent Giudicelli starts at hooker in place of Romain Ruffenach.
Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards has made six changes to his side for this crucial encounter.
Fly-half Toby Flood returns to captain the team after missing last weekend’s game against Harlequins due to a head knock, and will be partnered in the half-backs by Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua.
Adam Brocklebank comes in at loosehead prop as Trevor Davison shifts over to the tighthead side in place of the injured Logovi’i Mulipola, Glen Young coming in at lock in front of a back-row which sees the return of John Hardie from a head knock and the addition of Ryan Burrows.
Montpellier: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Yvan Reilhac, 11 Henry Immelman, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Louis Picamoles (c), 7 Kevin Kornath, 6 Kelian Galletier, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Vincent Giudicelli, 1 Grégory FichtenReplacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Usha Tcheisvhili, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Jan Serfontein, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Paul Willemse
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Tom Arscott, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Ryan Burrows, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gary Graham, 5 Glen Young, 4 Will Witty, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Adam Brocklebank Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Jack Payne, 19 Calum Green, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Michael Young, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Zach Kibirige
Venue: GGL StadiumKick off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Vincenzo Schipani (Italy)TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Leinster v Toulouse
Leinster will be without fly-half and World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton for their crucial Champions Cup clash with Toulouse.
Ross Byrne therefore comes in at pivot and he is partnered by Luke McGrath at half-back.
Rob Kearney is also injured so Jordan Larmour starts in the number 15 jersey with Adam Byrne on the right wing and Dave Kearney on the left.
Rory O’Loughlin and Garry Ringrose are again the centre partnership having played together in the Munster game over Christmas.
The front-row sees Cian Healy, Seán Cronin and Tadhg Furlong scrum down with Scott Fardy and James Ryan behind in the engine room.
The back-row features captain Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan at No. 8.
On the bench Conor O’Brien is in line to make his European debut having impressed over the last few months in the Guinness PRO14.
For Toulouse, Thomas Ramos starts at fly-half against the Irish province, with Maxime Medard at full-back for the pool leaders.
Yoann Huget and the ever-dangerous Cheslin Kolbe are therefore on the wings, while Romain Ntamack and Sofiane Guitoune make up the centre partnership.
Ramos is joined by Antoine Dupont at half-back, with Sebastien Bezy and Zack Holmes providing the cover off the bench.
In the pack, they have rotated their props from their previous game against Agen as Clement Castets and Charlie Faumuina come in for Cyril Baille and Dorian Aldegheri.
The only other change amongst the forwards sees Francois Cros return to the XV instead of Alban Placines, who is on the bench.
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian HealyReplacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Conor O’Brien
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Julien Marchand (c), 1 Clément CastetsReplacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Piula Faasalele, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Alban Placines, 22 Sébastien Bézy, 23 Zack Holmes
Venue: RDS ArenaKick off: 13:00 GMTReferee: Luke Pearce (England)Assistant referees: Tom Foley (England), Jonathan Healy (England)TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Ulster v Racing 92
Robert Baloucoune will make his Champions Cup debut on Saturday after being named in the starting team for the critical game against Racing 92.
Baloucoune is joined in the back three by Louis Ludik and Jacob Stockdale, who will earn his 50th Ulster cap. Stockdale is the competition’s joint-top try-scorer (four) and is the only player to have scored in every round so far.
Stuart McCloskey and Will Addison are re-united in midfield, with John Cooney and Billy Burns named at scrum-half and fly-half respectively. Burns currently leads the way for assists in the Champions Cup (four).
Rory Best returns to captain the side from hooker and will pack down beside Marty Moore and academy prop Eric O’Sullivan.
Alan O’Connor, one of just two players retained from the team that lost to Leinster last weekend, partners Kieran Treadwell in the second-row.
Sean Reidy, the other player who was involved at the RDS, will line out alongside Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee in the back-row.
Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Ian Nagle and Nick Timoney are the forward replacements, while Dave Shanahan, Michael Lowry and Darren Cave are the backline reinforcements.
For Racing, Teddy Thomas’ injury has forced a reshuffle with Brice Dulin coming in at full-back and Simon Zebo moving onto the wing.
They are, however, boosted by the return of Maxime Machenaud who returns to the starting line-up. The France international missed the final last year and has been absent over the first half of the season but is back just in time for the final two Champions Cup group games.
Up front, Ben Tameifuna is the only alteration from the match against Toulon as the prop replaces the injured Cedate Gomes Sa at tighthead.
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Will Addison, 12 Stuar McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Eric O’SullivanReplacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Michael Lowry, 23 Darren Cave
Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Simon Zebo, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Guram GogichashviliReplacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Georges Henri Colombe, 19 Boris Palu, 20 Fabien Sanconnie, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Olivier Klemenczak, 23 Ben Volavola
Venue: Kingspan StadiumKick off: 15:15 GMTReferee: Matthew Carley (England)Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England), Hamish Smales (England)TMO: Geoff Warren (England)
Bath v Wasps
Taulupe Faletau returns to action for Bath as they take on Wasps at the Rec on Saturday in Round 5 of the Champions Cup.
Luke Charteris leads the side out from the second-row, forming a lock partnership with Elliott Stooke. Jacques van Rooyen and Max Lahiff line up either side of Jack Walker in the front-row.
Faletau comes into the side at blindside flanker, teaming up with Josh Bayliss, who makes his European debut from openside. Zach Mercer starts at number eight to complete the back-row.
Max Green forms an exciting half-back pairing with Rhys Priestland. Max Wright starts inside Max Clark in the midfield, while Aled Brew and Tom Homer come in on the left and right wing respectively. Darren Atkins completes the backline as he starts at full-back.
Meanwhile, Wasps backs Ross Neal and Rob Miller return to the starting line-up ahead of Saturday’s clash with Bath.
Winger Neal has recovered from a hip knock to replace Elliot Daly, who is forced to have a rest week after his participation in England’s November internationals, while Miller steps in for Willie le Roux (neck) at full-back to make his first appearance for the first-team since November’s win over Bristol.
Number eight Nathan Hughes is also restored to the starting XV for the first time since early December while lock Charlie Matthews comes into the replacements.
Bath: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Tom Homer, 13 Max Clark, 12 Max Wright, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Max Green, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 5 Luke Charteris (c), 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Jacques van RooyenReplacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Alex Davies, 23 Jackson Willison
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Ross Neal, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Zurabi ZhvaniaReplacements: 16 Antonio Harris, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Gaby Lovobalavu
Venue: Recreation GroundKick off: 15:15 GMTReferee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Toulon v Edinburgh
Toulon head coach Patrice Collazo has made five alterations to his starting line-up for this clash at Stade Félix-Mayol.
Despite suffering an away defeat to Racing 92 in the Top 14 last weekend, Collazo has retained most of his players who started in that encounter.
In the back-line, Mathieu Smaili comes in at full-back in place of JP Pietersen, who shifts to the right wing where he replaces Daniel Ikpefan while Julian Savea also returns to the run-on side on the left wing in place of Simon Moretti.
Mathieu Bastareaud captains the side from outside centre and he forms a midfield combination with Francois Trinh-Duc while Anthony Belleau and Rhys Webb are the halfbacks.
In the forwards, Mamuka Gorgodze drops to the replacements bench with Stephane Onambele Mbarga taking his place on the blindside flank while Romain Taofifenua comes in for Brian Alainu’uese at lock.
The final change sees Guilhem Guirado replacing Bastien Soury at hooker.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has welcomed back seven Scotland internationals into his starting line-up for this encounter.
Scotland stars Blair Kinghorn, Henry Pyrgos, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist and Hamish Watson all return to action after being rested in last weekend’s PRO14 win against Southern Kings.
Back-row duo Jamie Ritchie and Viliame Mata, along with wingers Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe are the only players to retain their positions in the starting XV.
Full-back Kinghorn returns to action and partners wingers Van der Merwe and Graham in a back-three that has combined to cross the whitewash six times in the last five matches.
Centres Chris Dean – a try-scorer in October’s bonus-point win over Toulon at Murrayfield – and James Johnstone are once again named in midfield, whilst South African fly-half Jaco van der Walt and experienced scrum-half Pyrgos return at scrum-half.
A revamped front-row sees captain McInally pack down alongside Nel and Pierre Schoeman at the coal face, whilst club centurion lock duo Gilchrist and Toolis once again line-up in the second-row.
The inclusion of 23-times capped openside flanker, Watson, is the only alteration to an otherwise unchanged back-row as Scotland teammate, Ritchie, and Fijian number eight Mata complete the forward pack.
Toulon: 15 Mathieu Smaili, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud (c), 12 Francois Trinh-Duc, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Stephane Onambele Mbarga, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Juandré Kruger, 3 Emerick Setiano, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Jean Baptiste Gros Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 19 Jean Monribot, 20 Louis Carbonel, 21 Antoine Zeghdar, 22 Yoann Cottin, 23 Mamuka Gorgodze
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Juan Pablo Socino
Venue: Stade Félix-MayolKick off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe (England), Simon McConnell (England)TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Scarlets v Leicester Tigers
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has called on his players to express themselves to keep their winning start to 2019 going in Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Leicester Tigers at Parc y Scarlets.
Gareth Davies is back in at scrum-half, after a rest, for the Welsh region and he forms a half-back partnership with Dan Jones.
Johnny McNicholl stays at full-back, with Paul Asquith and a recalled Steff Evans completing the back-three. With Jonathan Davies rested after playing 11 of the last 12 games, Kieron Fonotia comes into the midfield alongside Hadleigh Parkes.
After appearing for the first time at the back of the scrum last weekend, captain Ken Owens sticks at number eight, as the whole pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s PRO14 victory against Dragons.
Josh Macleod returns to take a place in the 23.
Meanwhile, Matt Toomua will captain Leicester Tigers from fly-half in this fixture.
Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy shuffles his backline with Australia international Toomua leading the team out and Gareth Owen set to face his former club.
Loosehead prop Greg Bateman and centre Kyle Eastmond both come into the starting team after appearing from the bench in the bonus-point win over Gloucester on league duty last weekend in their first games back after a period on the sidelines.
Tonga international Valentino Mapapalangi is named in the number eight shirt in his first senior appearance since early November and there is also a place for England U20 prop Joe Heyes at tighthead prop.
There could be a club debut for former England U20 cap Sam Aspland-Robinson who is named in the matchday squad for the first time since his summer move from Harlequins.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Paul Asquith, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ken Owens (c), 7 Dan Davies, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Josh Helps, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Tom Price, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Steff Hughes, 23 Ioan Nicholas
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Matt Toomua (c), 9 Ben White, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Will Evans, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Jake Kerr, 1 Greg Bateman Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 David Feao, 19 Mike Fitzgerald, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson
Venue: Parc y ScarletsKick off: 18:30 GMTReferee: Mathieu Raynal (France)Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Vincent Blasco Baqué (France)TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
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