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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Heineken Cup cheat sheet: Your guide to this weekend’s European rugby

Our four provinces are facing into make-or-break weekend, here’s all you need to know.

Peter O'Mahony gets to grips with the Saracens pack.
Peter O'Mahony gets to grips with the Saracens pack.
Image: ©INPHO

Biarritz v Connacht

When: Tonight 8pm

Where can I watch? Sky Sports 2,

The story so far: The majority of Irish supporters cheered Connacht on last season as they defeated Harlequins in Galway to secure their first ever Heineken Cup win. Now that the westerners are making a habit out of winning, the more successful provinces have been sniffing around at the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Mike McCarthy, who will be a Leinster player next summer.

Connacht were full value for their 22-14 win last week, despite some less than generous refereeing, and McCarthy led the charge with superb assistance from Dan Parks, Tiernan O’Halloran, Fetu’u Vainikolo, and every Connacht forward that put in a shift. The five or six lads that I didn’t mention had fine games too (watch out for their names in a familiar teamsheet).

As Biarritz fullback Iain Balshaw alluded to last week, club president Serge Blanco was not impressed with his side’s defeat in Ireland and suspended two coaches. With Harlequins leading the way in Pool 3, this evening’s match should determine who finishes as overall runner-up.

Team news: Just the one change for Connacht and it is injury enforced. Johnny O’Connor comes in for Willie Faloon, who fractured his eye socket last week. Eric Elwood has been able to strengthen his bench by drafting in Nathan White and George Naoupu.

Biarritz, two-time Heineken Cup finalists, have also named their team for the encounter at Parc des Sports Aguilera and Imanol Harinordoquy returns to captain the side. The other men to watch are Dimitri Yachvili and Damien Traille.

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks (capt), K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, R Loughney; M Kearney, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, N White, D Qualter, G Naoupu, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, M Jarvis.

Biarritz: I Balshaw; T Ngwenya, J.P Barraque, D Traille, A Brew; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; F Barcella, B August, F Gomez Kodela; E Lund, P Taele; W Lauret, R Lakafia, I Harinordoquy (capt).

Replacements: J Genevois, W Blaauw, T Synaeghel, T Dubarry, M Lund, Y Lesgourgues, S Burotu, M Bosch.

Leinster v Clermont

When: Saturday 3:40pm

Where can I watch? Sky Sports 1.

The story so far: The unbeaten talk is gone as Leinster were beaten 15-12 last Sunday and Clermont, who won, are away from home. They can be beaten away from home but they tend not to make a habit of it. Despite their loss in France, Leinster impressed many onlookers by control massive patches of the game and dictating the tempo. Poor lineouts and ill discipline near half-time ultimately cost them.

Tomorrow’s match will be the seventh time the teams have clashed in recent seasons. The home side usually take away the points and plaudits but Leinster will need to dust off the type of performances that did for Cardiff and Ulster last season to have any hope of getting a bonus point win and sending Clermont back to the south of France without a point.

Team news: Joe Schmidt brings back Eoin Reddan and Richardt Strauss in an obviously show of attacking intent. Cian Healy is benched after his exertions last weekend but expect him to feature with at least 30 minutes to go, while Kevin McLaughlin has been ruled out so Shane Jennings steps in. Sean O’Brien switches to blindside flanker and should be nearing full match fitness.

Vincent Debaty drops to the Clermont bench after showing weakness at the scrum last week. Vern Cotter retains the exact same backline with Wesley Fofana, Lee Byrne and Sitiveni Sivivatu the biggest threats. Nathan Hines and Julien Bonnaire were both excellent last week and start again at lock and blindside respectively.

Leinster: I Madigan; F McFadden, G D’Arcy, A Goodman, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (c), D Browne; S O’Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, K McLaughlin, I Boss, A Conway, D Kearney.

Clermont: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (c), W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James, M Parra; R Chaume, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili, J Cudmore, N Hines, J Bonnaire, J Bardy, D Chouly.

Replacements: T Paulo, V Debaty, D Kotze, L Jacquet, A Lapandry, L Radosavljevic, D Skrela, Regan King.

Julien Bonnaire: Stop this man from getting another ‘best player’ vase and Leinster will be on the right track. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Ulster v Northampton Saints

When: Saturday 6pm.

Where can I watch? Sky Sports 1.

The story so far: The Ulster juggernaut keeps ploughing on and Saints, who were roughed up last week by Mark Anscombe’s men, do not look likely of stopping them. Ben Foden of Saints talked up his team’s chances of ‘testing’ Ulster this week but the only test should be denying them a winning bonus point.

Saints’ European and Premiership season has been indifferent so far but they are a team capable of putting up a real scrap if they get a feeling that they have parity with their opponents. Both sides have lost their captains, Dylan Hartley [suspension] and Johann Muller [injury], but there are enough leaders in the Ulster squad to ensure the unbeaten run stretches to 14 matches.

Team news: The Ulster backline that tore Saints to shreds last week has been retained, with wunderkinder Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy remaining on the bench. Iain Henderson switches to the second row in place of Muller and Nick Williams, a quiet revelation this season, is back in at blindside.

With Hartley suspended for two weeks, Mike Haywood comes in at skipper while Phil Dowson captains the visitors. The main backline threats should come from Foden and George Pisi.

Ulster Rugby: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, I Henderson, D Tuohy, N Williams, C Henry (c), R Wilson.

Replacements: N Brady, C Black, R Lutton, N McComb, R Diack, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy.

Northampton Saints: B Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, T May, J Elliott; S Myler, L Dickson; S Tonga’uiha, M Haywood, P Doran-Jones, S Manoa, C Clark, T Wood, P Dowson (c), G van Velze.

Replacements: R McMillan, A Waller, B Mujati, M Sorenson, C Lawes, M Roberts, R Lamb, L Burrell.

Saracens v Munster

When: Sunday 3pm

Where can I watch? Sky Sports 2.

The story so far: First plays second in Pool 1 but Racing Metro are lurking nearby with another game against hapless Edinburgh this weekend. Munster held sway at the breakdown and lineout last week but were penalised more than 20 times by fastidious French referee Pascal Gauzere. Prop Wian du Preez felt Munster never got out of third gear in their 15-9 win but they will need to find fifth for long periods to keep Saracens at bay.

Owen Farrell could be suffering from Sarries transient nature this season but Vicarage Road is as much a home as they are likely to have fore the foreseeable future. He may welcome a bit more noise than the silent shame he suffered at Thomomd Park last Saturday when he kicked three from seven.

Team news: The major loss for Munster this week is Keith Earls. He looked lively at centre last week and tackled anything in white that moved. Casey Laulala comes in at 13 will the pack has a settled feel for the first time in months. Doug Howlett impressed on the wing last week and captains the side.

Chris Ashton, as well as Farrell and Schalk Brits, had a poor game last week but should be up for the return tie. Mark McCall has resisted the urge to bring in the reliable John Smit for the faltering lineout throws; Brits gets a shot at redemption. Will Fraser, at openside flanker, is an England star of the future.

Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, J Tomkins, B Barritt, D Strettle; O Farrell, R Wigglesworth; R Gill, S Brits, M Stevens; S Borthwick (c), M Botha; G Kruis, W Fraser, K Brown.

Replacements: J Smit, M Vunipola, P Du Plessis, E Sheriff, E Joubert, N de Kock, C Hodgson, C Wyles.

Munster Rugby: F Jones; D Howlett (c), C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha, D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; D O’Callaghan, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan.

Replacements: D Varley, W Du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, L O’Dea.

Schmidt: Precision key against ‘liberated’ Clermont

Heineken Cup: Du Preez wants sluggish Munster to get out of third gear

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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