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Heineken Cup cheat sheet: your guide to the weekend's rugby action

Here’s your cut-out and keep guide to what awaits the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup this weekend.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Aironi v Ulster

When? Saturday, 13:30 GMT (14:30 CET)

Where to watch? Sky Sports (red button)

The story so far: Ulster will be looking to score back-to-back wins over the Italians and further boost their chances of making the knockout stages. They sit in second place following last Friday’s bonus-point win in Ravenhill, though just two points separate the top three teams in Pool 4. Aironi remain winless from their three games in the competition this season.

Team news: Ulster centre Nevin Spence has recovered from a rib injury picked up last Friday and passed a late fitness test to make Brian McLaughlin’s starting XV. McLaughlin makes just one change to the side which won 31-10 last week, recalling Tom Court at loosehead in place of Paddy McAllister who drops to the bench.

Aironi: Trevisan; Sinoti, Masi, Pizarro, Venditti; Orquera, Keats; Perugini, Ongaro, Romano; Geldenhuys, Bortolami; Cattina, Favaro, Sole.
Ulster: D’Arcy; Trimble, Cave, Spence, Gilroy; Humphreys, Pienaar; Court, Best, Afoa; Muller, Tuohy; Ferris, Henry, Wannenburg.

Gloucester v Connacht

When? Saturday, 15:40

Where to watch? Sky Sports 1

The story so far: Connacht picked up their first ever Heineken Cup point at the Sportsgrounds last weekend, losing 14-10 in a tight contest against tomorrow’s opponents. Eric Elwood’s men will quietly fancy themselves to spring a surprise at Kingsholm against a Gloucester side who need to get their campaign back on track after opening with losses against Toulouse and Harlequins.

Team news: Elwood has made two changes for tomorrow’s trip, bringing Eoin Griffin into midfield where he replaces Kyle Tonetti. Ray Ofisa is ruled out of the matchday 22 with the knee injury which he picked up during last weekend’s game. His absence allows the returning Johnny O’Connor to slot straight in at openside without the need for any major reshuffling in the pack.

Gloucester: Morgan; Sharples, Tindall, Fuimano-Sapolu, Simpson-Daniel; Taylor, Runciman; Murphy, Lawson, Harden; Buxton, Hamilton; Deacon, Hazell, Narraway.
Connacht: Duffy; McCrea, Griffin, McSharry, O’Halloran; O’Connor, Murphy; Wilkinson, Reynecke, Loughney; Naoupu, McCarthy; Gannon, O’Connor, Muldoon.

Leinster v Bath

When? Saturday, 18:00

Where to watch? Sky Sports 1

The story so far: Last week’s 18-13 win at the Rec saw Leinster maintain their unbeaten record in this season’s competition and the defending champions know that a win tomorrow will leave them in pole position to qualify at the top of Pool 3. A shock defeat away to Glasgow got Bath’s campaign off to the worst possible start and, although they beat Montpellier, Ian McGeechan’s men really need to take a scalp if they are to remain in contention.

Team news: Joe Schmidt changes four for tomorrow evening’s game. Gordon D’Arcy hasn’t managed to shake a minor niggle and drops to the bench with Eoin O’Malley coming in to deputise alongside Fergus McFadden in midfield while at half-back, Eoin Reddan returns to partner Jonny Sexton. Devin Toner has been given the nod alongside captain Leo Cullen in the second row and Shane Jennings starts at openside flanker.

Leinster: Kearney; Nacewa, O’Malley, McFadden, Fitzgerald; Sexton, Reddan; Van der Merwe, Strauss, Ross; Cullen, Toner; O’Brien, Jennings, Heaslip.
Bath: Vesty; Cuthbert, Banahan, Barkley, Abendanon; Donald, Claassens; Flatman, Biller, Wilson; Atwood, Caldwell; Louw, Mercer, Taylor.

Munster v Scarlets

When? Sunday, 12:45

Where to watch? Sky Sports 2

The story so far: Munster go into Sunday’s game hoping to put a bit of daylight between themselves and their Welsh opponents at the top of Pool 1. Last Saturday’s 17-14 win at Parc y Scarlets saw Munster jump to the top of the pile but their advantage is slim at just two points. A win for Scarlets would see them retake top spot with two games to play.

Team news: Keith Earls returns from a six-week injury lay-off to line up alongside Lifeimi Mafi in midfield. His return is one of three changes made by Tony McGahan. Denis Leamy comes in to replace the injured Peter O’Mahony in the back row while Donncha O’Callaghan is preferred to Donncha Ryan in the second row.

Munster: Hurley; Murphy, Earls, Mafi, Zebo; O’Gara, Murray; Du Preez, Varley, Botha; O’Callaghan, O’Connell; Leamy, Ronan, Coughlan.
Scarlets: Priestland; L Williams, S Williams, J Davies, Lamont; S Jones, G Davies; Jones, Rees, Thomas; Reed, Welch; McCusker, Edwards, Morgan.

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Niall Kelly

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