Champions Cup: Key battles for Saturday's European games
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 22/11/19 2:27pm
There are seven matches taking place on Saturday afternoon in the second week of the 2019/20 European Champions Cup.
Three of the clashes feature teams who won last week going head to head, with Toulouse hosting Connacht, Exeter Chiefs tackling Glasgow Warriors and Munster clashing with Racing 92.
Northampton Saints and Leinster are aiming to maintain their winning ways too, while Saracens, Ospreys, Lyon, Harlequins and Bath have their sights on making up for defeats on the opening weekend.
Benetton vs Northampton Saints, Stadio Comunale di Monigo (1pm)
Mikey Haywood is the only player in Northampton's front five to retain his place from last week's Pool 1 win over Lyon, with Jamie Gibson, Matt Proctor, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala being handed starts by director of rugby Chris Boyd as well.
Hosts Benetton have rung in the changes too, making seven switches following the 33-19 defeat to Leinster. They include Italy international Tommaso Allan coming back into the side at fly-half.
Key match-up: Dan Biggar vs Tommaso Allan
Wales international Biggar was instrumental in Northampton's victory over Lyon last week, kicking 20 points.
How opposite number Allan, himself an Italy international, performs is likely to be key to the home side's chances of recording a rare Champions Cup success.
Benetton’s last win in the Champions Cup was in January 2014 when they beat Ospreys 23-20.
Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Juan Iganacio Brex, Tommaso Benvenuti, Monty Ioane; Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Federico Zani, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Braam Steyn, Toa Halafihi.
Replacements: Michele Mancini Parri, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolo Cannone, Eli Snyman, Marco Lazzaroni, Tito Tebaldi, Ian Keatley.
Northampton Saints: Ah See Tuala; Ollie Sleightholme, Matt Proctor, Rory Hutchinson, Tom Collins; Dan Biggar, Cobus Reinach; Francois van Wyk, Mikey Haywood, Owen Franks, Alex Moon, Api Ratuniyarawa, Jamie Gibson, Lewis Ludlam, Teimana Harrison.
Replacements: Michael van Vuuren, Alex Waller, Paul Hill, Lewis Bean, Mitch Eadie, James Mitchell, Fraser Dingwall, George Furbank.
Saracens vs Ospreys, Allianz Park (1pm)
Elliot Daly is set to make his Saracens debut in this Pool 4 clash at Allianz Park, while the defending champions welcome Brad Barritt back after six weeks out, plus World Cup pair Mako Vunipola and George Kruis. Tom Whiteley and Alex Lewington are included in the starting XV too.
Owen Watkins and Kieran Williams form a new midfield partnership for Ospreys, with James Hook and Aled Davies taking the half-back roles. Nicky Smith, Adam Beard and Bradley Davies all return in the forwards as well.
Key match-up: Adam Beard and Bradley Davies vs Will Skelton and George Kruis
The second row clash looks like one to keep an eye on in this clash, with both engine rooms having plenty of international experience.
Wales internationals Beard and Davies will have to combine well again for their club to help win the battle against England regular Kruis and former Australia star Skelton.
This match is Saracens’ 100th in the Champions Cup and they have a win rate of 70 percent from their previous games.
Saracens: Elliot Daly; Rotimi Segun, Duncan Taylor, Brad Barritt, Alex Lewington; Manu Vunipola, Tom Whiteley; Mako Vunipola, Jack Singleton, Titi Lamositele, Will Skelton, George Kruis, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Jackson Wray.
Replacements: Jamie George, Richard Barrington, Josh Ibuanokpe, Joel Kpoku, Andy Christie, Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Lozowski, Matt Gallagher.
Ospreys: Cai Evans; Hanno Dirksen, Owen Watkin, Kieran Williams, Tom Williams; James Hook, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Ma'afu Fia, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Marvin Orie, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Morris.
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Gareth Thomas, Tom Botha, Lloyd Ashley, Sam Cross, Shaun Venter, Luke Price, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Toulouse vs Connacht, Stade Ernest-Wallon (1pm)
Caolin Blade makes his 100th appearance for Connacht, who welcome Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Eoghan Masterson, Matt Healy and Tom Farrell back into the starting XV.
Toulouse have reshuffled the backs, with Romain Ntamack moving to fly-half to accommodate Lucas Tauzin at inside centre. Peato Mauvaka, Richie Gray and Alban Placines are all handed starts in the pack as well.
Key match-up: Caolin Blade vs Sebastien Bezy
Blade was man of the match as Connacht marked their return to the Champions Cup with a 23-20 win at home to Montpellier last Sunday and will be eager to continue that form as he reaches a century of appearances for his home province.
He is up against Bezy, who got Toulouse's only try as they fought back from 11 points down at half time to defeat Gloucester 25-20 in the Pool 5 opener last week.
Toulouse won 19-10 when these sides last met in the Champions Cup pool stage in January 2017.
Toulouse: Thomas Ramos; Yoann Huget, Sofiane Guitone, Lucas Tauzin, Maxime Medard; Romain Ntamack, Sebastien Bezy; Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Charlie Faumuina, Richie Gray, Joe Tekori, Alban Placines, Rynhardt Elstadt, Jerome Kaino.
Replacements: Julien Marchand, Thomas du Toit, Dorian Aldegheri, Rory Arnold, Selevasio Tolofua, Francois Cros, Pita Ahki, Pierre Pages.
Connacht: Matt Healy; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Kyle Godwin; Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga'a, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.
Exeter Chiefs vs Glasgow Warriors, Sandy Park (3.15pm)
Rob Baxter has made just one change to Exeter's side following last Saturday's win over La Rochelle, with England international Jack Nowell coming in on the wing for his first start of the season in place of Alex Cuthbert.
Dave Rennie has made a sole change to Glasgow's starting XV as well after they opened with a victory against Sale Sharks, which sees Chris Fusaro replace Callum Gibbins at openside flanker.
Key match-up: Stuart Hogg vs Tommy Seymour
Plenty of eyes will be on Scotland international full-back and former Glasgow player Hogg when he runs out at Sandy Park against the team he left at the end of last season.
He finds himself up against one of his international team-mates in Seymour, who continues at full-back for the Warriors in place of Ruaridh Jackson.
Glasgow have won just two of their previous 22 away games against Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup, but one of those came against Exeter in 2014.
Exeter Chiefs: Stuart Hogg; Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ian Whitten, Tom O'Flaherty; Joe Simmonds, Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle, Harry Williams, Dave Dennis, Jonny Hill, Dave Ewers, Jacques Vermeulen, Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ben Moon, Marcus Street, Jannes Kirsten, Don Armand, Jack Maunder, Gareth Steenson, Sam Hill.
Glasgow Warriors: Tommy Seymour; Ratu Tagive, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Ferguson, Rob Harley, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Alex Allan, D'arcy Rae, Kiran McDonald, Tom Gordon, Ali Price, Pete Horne, Kyle Steyn.
Lyon vs Leinster, Matmut Stadium (3.15pm)
Ireland international Tadhg Furlong returns to the Leinster front row for his first appearance of the season, while James Tracy is set to win his 100th cap for the province.
Charlie Ngatai, Noa Nakaitaci, Liam Gill and Carl Fearns are the only players in Lyon's starting XV who have retained their places from last Sunday's 25-14 defeat away to Northampton.
Key match-up: Carl Fearns vs Max Deegan
There is an intriguing battle of the old stager and the young up-and-comer between No 8s Fearns and Deegan.
The former has over a decade of professional experience to rely on, while the latter is highly-regarded in Ireland after winning player of the tournament in the 2016 U20 World Championship.
Lyon are aiming to chalk up their first win in the competition at their eighth attempt.
Lyon: Toby Arnold; Zavier Mignot, Thibaut Regard, Charlie Ngatai, Noa Nakaitaci; Jonathan Wisniewski, Baptiste Couillouid; Xavier Chiocci, Mickael Ivaldi, Demba Bamba, Virgile Bruni, Hendrik Roodt, Julien Puricelli, Liam Gill, Carl Fearns.
Replacements: Jeremie Maurouard, Raphael Chaume, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Etienne Oosthuizen, Loann Goujon, Jonathan Pelissie, Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Rudi Wulf.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Josh Murphy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Dave Kearney
Harlequins vs Bath, Twickenham Stoop (5.30pm)
Joe Marler makes his first appearance of the year for Harlequins after helping England reach the World Cup final, with Danny Care making his first home start after recovering from injury and Michele Campagnaro getting his first start for the club.
World Cup winner Francois Louw makes his Bath debut at No. 8 and there is a welcome return for Anthony Watson at full-back, which sees Freddie Burns move to fly-half. Max Wright also comes back into the side.
Key match-up: Lewis Boyce vs Will Collier
Bath loosehead Boyce is up against his old side for the first time after making the move to the Recreation Ground in the summer.
He will come face to face with former team-mate and Quins tighthead Collier when they pack down at the scrum, and it will be interesting to see what Boyce has picked up from a man who cites an interest in the dark arts of the set piece.
Bath saw assistant coach Toby Booth leave for Harlequins earlier this week to take up a similar role with their Pool 3 rivals.
Harlequins: Mike Brown; Ross Chisholm, Michele Campagnaro, James Lang, Cadan Murley; Marcus Smith, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Elia Elia, Will Collier, Stephan Lewies, Matt Symons, Chris Robshaw, Will Evans, Tom Lawday.
Replacements: George Head, Santiago Garcia Botta, Simon Kerrod, Tex Cavubati , Semi Kunatani, Niall Saunders, Paul Lasike, Gabriel Ibitoye
Bath: Anthony Watson; Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Max Wright, Ruaridh McConnochie; Freddie Burns, Chris Cook; Lewis Boyce, Jack Walker, Christian Judge, Josh McNally, Charlie Ewels, Elliott Stooke, Josh Bayliss, Francois Louw.
Replacements: Tom Dunn, Beno Obano, Will Stuart, Matt Garvey, Rhys Davies, Will Chudley, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts.
Munster vs Racing 92, Thomond Park (5.30pm)
There are three changes to the Munster team from last weekend's win over Ospreys, with JJ Hanrahan, Tadhg Beirne and Jack O'Donoghue all returning to the starting line-up.
Simon Zebo returns to the Racing starting XV at full-back to face his old club, with Dominic Bird and Boris Palu being handed starts in the pack as well.
Key match-up: Niall Scannell vs Camile Chat
Two international hookers go head-to-head at Thomond Park as Ireland's Scannell and France's Chat line up in the front row for their respective sides.
Neither will give any quarter at the scrum, while their line-out throws will need to be pinpoint to prevent their opponents from taking advantage.
Munster hold a slight head-to-head edge over Racing, winning four of the previous seven meetings against the French side.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony, Jack O'Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Fineen Wycherley, Alby Mathewson, Dan Goggin, Arno Botha
Racing 92: Simon Zebo; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Juan Imhoff; Finn Russell, Maxime Machenaud; Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Cedate Gomes Sa, Donnacha Ryan, Dominic Bird, Wenceslas Lauret, Boris Palu, Antonie Claassen.
Replacements: Teddy Baubigny, Hassane Kolingar, Ali Oz, Fabien Sanconnie, Yoan Tanga, Teddy Iribaren, Ben Volavola, Brice Dulin.