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Saturday 21 April 2018

Madigan's men face stiff Clermont task

Clermont just need to avoid defeat in order to secure progression. Photo: Getty
Clermont just need to avoid defeat in order to secure progression. Photo: Getty Sportsdesk

Pool 5: Bordeaux v Clermont, tomorrow, 2.0. Defeat against Exeter in Round 4 put a severe dent in Bordeaux's hopes and they must beat Clermont tomorrow to maintain any hopes of qualification.

Clermont just need to avoid defeat in order to secure progression and it's a measure of their dominance in the group that, after four matches, they are the only team with a positive points difference.

Ian Madigan starts for Bordeaux who go into the game having lost to Montpellier in the Top 14 last week, while Clermont had perfect preparation with a thumping 30-6 victory against Toulon.

Pool 4

Northampton v Castres, today, 1.0

Northampton, who are already eliminated, rest JJ Hanrahan, Louis Picamoles and Jamie Elliott. Castres need to beat the Saints as well as Leinster next weekend, both with a bonus point, to have a realistic chance of topping the pool.

Pool 2

Wasps v Toulouse, today, 3.15

The standout match of the weekend comes in the standout Pool of the season as Wasps take on Toulouse, with the two sides joined by Connacht at the top of Pool 2 on 13 points, with just one team guaranteed progression to the quarter-finals.

Joe Launchbury returns to captain the side after recovering from a calf injury but James Haskell is ruled out with concussion, while Joe Simpson is preferred at scrum-half to make his 200th appearance for the club.

Four-time winners Toulouse know that a win is imperative, given that Wasps take on whipping-boys Zebre next week.

The French giants leave former England fly-half Toby Flood on the bench, with Jean-Marc Doussain preferred at No 10.

Pool 1

Racing 92 v Leicester Tigers, today, 7.45

Leicester must beat last season's finalists if they are to stand any chance of progress, and have former England international Mathew Tait back at full-back.

Owen Williams, fresh from announcing that he has joined Gloucester from next season, is ruled out with an elbow injury so Freddie Burns switches to out-half, while Lachlan McCaffrey returns to the back-row.

Pointless Racing will be guided by Dan Carter at No 10.

Pool 3

Scarlets v Saracens, tomorrow, 1.0

Owen Farrell returns after being rested last weekend to take the Saracens captaincy, with Brad Barritt beginning his three-week suspension for a high tackle on Exeter's Geoff Parling in last Saturday's 13-13 Premiership draw.

Alex Lozowski switches to full-back, with Alex Goode ruled out with an ankle injury, and Chris Ashton returns from a head-knock.

Nick Tompkins starts at centre in place of the suspended Barritt, though Richard Barrington remains in the side despite his red card last weekend for a high shot on Parling in the same tackle, after it was decided he warranted no further action.

He's joined in the front-row by Schalk Brits, in for England hooker Jamie George, and Juan Figallo, while the second and back rows remain unchanged with George Kruis set to miss both this weekend and next week's crunch clash with Toulon.

Scarlets leave Wales centre Jonathan Davies on the bench, with full-back Liam Williams set to take on the club he will join in the summer. Scarlets are also without international scrum-half Gareth Davies, meaning Aled Davies starts at nine while Samson Lee and Aaron Shingler return to the pack.

Toulon v Sale, tomorrow, 3.15

Pointless Sale face mounting problems, as they face an investigation for a potential breach in their concussion management protocol over TJ Ioane.

The 27-year-old Samoan fell to the ground after an attempted tackle on Harlequins' Dave Ward last weekend, but continued to play the rest of the game and the Concussion Management Review Group are looking into the matter.

With their qualification hopes over, boss Steve Diamond makes multiple changes. Jonathan Mills replaces Andrei Ostrikov at lock, while a fresh back-row sees Magnus Lund, David Seymour and Laurence Pearce start.

Former Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips starts with Sam James outside him, while Will Addison skippers the side at outside centre.

Toulon will need help from the Scarlets if they are to remain in touching distance of pool leaders Saracens, with the two most recent European champions separated by eight points ahead of their Allianz Park showdown next week.

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