Maro Itoje back for Saracens’ trip to Lyon

Three Champions Cup games take place on Sunday and the action kicks off with Exeter Chiefs hosting Castres in a vital Pool Two clash at Sandy Park.

Exeter Chiefs v Castres

Fresh from beating Bristol in the Premiership last week, Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter makes a number of changes to his starting XV.

Up front, there is a new-look front-row of Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle and Tomas Francis, while behind Don Armand is recalled to the back-row having been given the week off against the Bears.

In the back division, Nic White and Joe Simmonds – both impressive off the bench a week ago – get the nod at half-back, Ollie Devoto starts in the centre, while Jack Nowell returns to the fray for the first time since the Castres away game, having recovered from a hamstring injury sustained on international duty with England during the November internationals.

Meanwhile, Castres will be captained by Robert Ebersohn, who lines up at centre alongside Thomas Combezou.

Geoffrey Palis, David Smith and Taylor Paris form the back three while it’s Ludovic Radosavljevic and Benjamin Urdapilleta as the half-backs.

The front-row sees Antoine Tichit and Daniel Kotze either side of Jody Jenneker while Thibault Lassalle and Loic Jacquet are at lock and Camille Gerondeau, Baptiste Delaporte and Maama Vaipulu complete the side in the back-row.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Alec HepburnReplacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 David Smith, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn (c), 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Baptiste Delaporte, 6 Camille Gerondeau, 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Thibault Lassalle, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine TichitReplacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Tudor Stroe, 18 Marc Clerc, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Alex Tulou, 21 Anthony Jelonch, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Rory Kockott

Venue: Sandy ParkKick off: 13:00 GMTReferee: George Clancy (Ireland)Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Lyon v Saracens

England international second-row Maro Itoje returns from injury to start for Saracens against Lyon in the Champions Cup on Sunday.

The lock missed five matches, including Sarries’ European double header with Cardiff Blues, due to a knee injury picked up on Test duty in November.

International and club team-mate Jamie George is reinstated at hooker after being rested last weekend and Jackson Wray is the third and final change in the pack, coming into the back-row at six.

Just one alteration in the backs sees Sean Maitland replace David Strettle on the wing.

Lyon, who have zero points for their efforts thus far in the pool stage, pick a strong side at home as Jean-Marc Doussain and Jonathan Wisniewski line up at half-back.

Noa Nakaitaci and Alexis Palisson start on the wing while Deon Fourie is at number eight and Hendrik Roodt and Francois van der Merwe form an all-South African lock partnership.

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Thibaut Regard, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Deon Fourie, 7 Dylan Cretin, 6 Julien Puricelli (c), 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Alexandre MeniniReplacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Kévin Yaméogo, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Rudi Wulf, 22 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 23 Charl McLeod

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako VunipolaReplacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 David Strettle

Venue: Matmut Stadium de GerlandKick off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Nigel Correll (Ireland)TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues

Rob Harley will become the first player in Glasgow Warriors history to reach a double century of appearances on Saturday against Cardiff Blues.

Co-captain Ryan Wilson will also reach a personal milestone against Cardiff Blues playing his 150th game for the club.

Wilson and Harley both joined the Warriors at the same time and Harley made his debut coming on for Wilson against Leinster.

Scott Cummings, Callum Gibbins and Matt Fagerson join the pair as the back five of the scrum.

Oli Kebble and D’Arcy Rae return to the starting XV as two of 11 changes to last weekend’s defeat to Benetton. Grant Stewart once again starts at hooker.

Brandon Thomson starts at fly-half outside of Ali Price and Nick Grigg comes in to partner Sam Johnson in midfield.

It’s a brand new back-three with Stuart Hogg, DTH van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour all returning.

Meanwhile, Tom James will make his Cardiff Blues comeback in Sunday’s Champions Cup clash.

The 12-times capped Wales international took an extended break from the game due to depression last year and has not appeared for the first team in a competitive fixture since the end of 2017.

James is now one of 12 changes for the trip to Glasgow with Matthew Rees also making his long-awaited return to action and captaining the side.

Brad Thyer and Dillon Lewis both come into the starting line-up, and pack down either side of Rees, while George Earle and Rory Thornton form a new-look second-row.

Shane Lewis-Hughes is handed his senior, competitive debut in the back-row alongside Josh Navidi and Seb Davies.

Behind the scrum, Lloyd Williams partners Steve Shingler and Willis Halaholo and Harri Millard form a dynamic midfield. In the back three, James is joined by Owen Lane and Dan Fish.

The teams:

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (cc), 6 Ryan Wilson (cc), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Oli KebbleReplacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Lee Jones

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Harri Millard, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Seb Davies, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 George Earle, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Brad ThyerReplacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Aled Summerhill

Venue: ScotstounKick off: 15:15 GMTReferee: JP Doyle (England)Assistant referees: John Meredith (England), Phil Watters (England)TMO: David Grashoff (England)

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