Saracens to begin Champions Cup defence at Racing 92

By Sports Desk August 23, 2019

Saracens will begin the defence of their Champions Cup title away at Racing 92, while Challenge Cup champions Clermont Auvergne will face Harlequins.

Premiership holders Saracens became the first English club to win Europe's flagship club tournament for a third time last season, and will get their Pool 4 campaign up and running on November 17.

Reigning Top 14 champions Toulouse get the tournament started two days earlier, taking on Gloucester.

Clermont were hugely impressive as they claimed the Challenge Cup title last term, beating La Rochelle 36-16 in Newcastle, and host Harlequins on November 16.

Benetton, who last season became the first Italian side to qualify by right for Europe's top competition, face PRO14 champions Leinster in their opening fixture.

Meanwhile, the Challenge Cup will kick-off with a clash between Enisei-STM and Worcester Warriors in Krasnodar.

Seven former European title winners – Brive, Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers, Pau, RC Toulon, Stade Francais Paris and Wasps – are involved in this season's Challenge Cup, which along with the Champions Cup, will culminate at the Stade Velodrome in May.

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    Devin Toner has been promoted to the Ireland team to play England in the Six Nations on Sunday after Iain Henderson was ruled out.

    Coach Andy Farrell had initially named an unchanged team for the crunch Twickenham clash, with Ireland joint-top alongside France after winning their beating Scotland and defending champions Wales.

    However, the continuity has been disrupted, as family reasons mean Henderson will be unavailable.

    Towering lock Toner, who was surprisingly left out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup squad under previous boss Joe Schmidt, comes into the side for his 70th cap.

    The change sees Ultan Dillane take Toner's spot among the replacements.

  • Under-pressure England must beat Ireland – Moody Under-pressure England must beat Ireland – Moody

    England are under huge pressure heading into what Lewis Moody has described as a "must-win game" against Ireland in the Six Nations.

    Eddie Jones' side were lacklustre in a shock loss to France before getting their campaign up and running by beating Scotland in torrid conditions at Murrayfield.

    The Rugby World Cup runners-up welcome Andy Farrell's Ireland to Twickenham on Sunday and former England flanker Moody believes the onus is on the hosts to get a result.

    Speaking to Omnisport ahead of the England v Ireland Rugby Legends Charity Match at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, Moody said: "Without a shadow of a doubt we all expected England to drive on after the World Cup. They faltered in the first game, the Scotland game allowed us to see they can knuckle out a victory in diabolical conditions. 

    "All being the well the weather conditions will be favourable this weekend and we can really see where England are at.

    "Ireland will come with confidence from the first two matches, they have the energy and enthusiasm of having a new coaching staff.

    "For England it's a must-win game, because otherwise all of a sudden you're going into your fourth game having lost two, only just won one and staring down the barrel of a seriously disappointing Six Nations, which they started with big expectations.

    "Without a shadow of a doubt there is a lot of pressure on this England side and coaching staff, which there always is, but we need to see them crack on and Eddie take them forward."

    Moody, who made 71 appearances for his country and was part of the 2003 World Cup-winning squad, feels England – who won in Dublin last year – are slight underdogs for this weekend's match against an Ireland side who received a visit from U2 frontman Bono this week.

    "I have to admit I'm not overly confident, I even think Ireland will come in as slight favourites," he said.

    "England have not really fired so far in the Six Nations, they had that really disappointing start in France, they got what they needed in Murrayfield – which is a very difficult place to go and win.

    "To knock out a win in those unbelievably horrific weather conditions was impressive, but this is the true test, this is the game that matters. They [Ireland] have a very well-organised side, with a new coach who seems to be instilling some real belief and I'm sure they've got a slight degree of vengeance from last year's upset at home to inspire them."

    While England still have not found what they are looking for in this year's Six Nations, Ireland's desire to win may have been boosted by the presence of Irish singer-songwriter Bono at the team hotel.

    Moody does not know exactly how the away side will benefit from that experience, but he suggested some song lyrics might provide some inspiration. 

    He said: "I'm not sure what motivation that will provide, but it'll be interesting for sure. Perhaps there may be a few of his lyrics quoted beforehand, but I'm not so sure what impact that might have."

    - The England v Ireland Rugby Legends Charity Match will take place at Twickenham Stoop on February 22, kick-off 17.30 and will be raising money for Restart Rugby, RFU Injured Players Fund and the Tom Smith Testimonial Committee. Visit http://tickets.quins.co.uk for tickets and more information.

  • Tuilagi back as Joseph starts on wing for England against Ireland Tuilagi back as Joseph starts on wing for England against Ireland

    Manu Tuilagi returns to England's team for the Six Nations clash with Ireland on Sunday and Jonathan Joseph will line up on the left wing at Twickenham.

    Head coach Eddie Jones moves Elliot Daly from out wide to full-back, where he replaces the injured George Furbank, while scrum-half Ben Youngs is recalled at the expense of Willi Heinz for what will be his 100th Test appearance - including two caps for the British and Irish Lions.

    Lewis Ludlam drops out as Courtney Lawes returns in the back row, and with Mako Vunipola absent for family reasons, Joe Marler comes in at prop as Ellis Genge has to settle for a place on the bench once again.

    Tuilagi's return after missing the victory over Scotland with a groin injury beefs up England's midfield, but the selection of Joseph on the wing catches the eye, given he is a centre by trade and Jones had more orthodox options.

    Joseph will win a 50th England cap, while centre Henry Slade is on the bench, having not yet played this year due to an ankle problem.

    England began their campaign with a defeat to France in Paris before getting the better of Scotland at Murrayfield.

    They play a first home match of the tournament against an Ireland side who have beaten Scotland and Wales already, so will be seeking to stay in contention for a Grand Slam.

    Jones said: "Ireland are a very good team, extremely well coached. They are a team we respect a lot. They will bring their usual physicality and under Andy Farrell they've opened up their game a little bit.

    "They are a tactically smart team. [Conor] Murray and [Johnny] Sexton, who have played 170 Tests between them, at nine and 10 will manage the game well. We've got to make sure we match their physicality and their emotion on the weekend."

    England: Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonathan Joseph, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

    Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade.

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