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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    Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika criticised Fiji for referring an incident involving Reece Hodge that could see the wing suspended.

    Hodge has been cited for a tackle that saw Peceli Yato concussed during the first half of Australia's 39-21 win at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

    Fiji referred the incident to see Hodge cited, with the 25-year-old set to face a hearing in Tokyo.

    Cheika questioned Fiji over their approach, saying he was upset about their decision to refer Hodge.

    "Probably the most disappointing thing was the Fijians," he told a news conference on Monday.

    "I think after the game we had a lot of friendly discussion with myself and the coach, he talked to our other coaches. There was no mention of anything and then to get a referral from them in the way it was referred, that was really disappointing.

    "I don't find that the way they brought that in the spirit of the game at all, which is something you know from Fiji. So, the coaching staff I was really quite surprised with the way they brought their own referral post-match. That would've been a little disappointing to me from the spirit of rugby point of view.

    "I'd prefer they come up to me and get upset with me if they were really upset about it, not to talk to me in that nice sort of friendly chitty chat way and then go behind your back and put in a referral. I don't think I've ever referred anyone."

    However, Cheika is confident Hodge will be cleared based on meetings coaches had with the referees' boss, citing commissioners' boss and judiciary committee boss last week.

    "I think it was pretty clear that all the officials dealt with it on the day and I think if you've seen form the conjecture around the majority of footballers, rugby players from the past have said it's not an illegal tackle," he said.

    "It's not clear and obvious even in that point of view so I was surprised that it was cited. Like I said after the game, I personally didn't even notice it, I didn't even see it in the game, I thought 'Hodgey' was actually lucky to get up, he got slammed.

    "I'm confident that, especially after listening to the boss of the judiciaries, I think we'll get a very fair hearing, hopefully we'll get it as quickly as possible so we can get our preparations right for this week and that Reece will be free to play."

    The Wallabies face Wales in a blockbuster clash in Chofu on Sunday.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Du Toit replaces injured Nyakane in Springboks' squad Rugby World Cup 2019: Du Toit replaces injured Nyakane in Springboks' squad

    Trevor Nyakane will miss the rest of the Rugby World Cup as South Africa called up Thomas Du Toit to their squad.

    Nyakane, 30, tore his right calf during the Springboks' 23-13 loss to the All Blacks in Pool B on Saturday.

    Du Toit was on standby and South Africa confirmed the prop was expected to join the squad on Tuesday.

    "It's very tough on Trevor," Springboks coach and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said in a statement.

    "He has had a great season and added value whenever he took the field. It's a blow to him and the team, but it's also an opportunity for Thomas and for Vincent [Koch] who now have the chance to step up."

    The Springboks continue their campaign against Namibia on Saturday before matches against Italy and Canada.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Russia v Samoa Rugby World Cup 2019: Russia v Samoa

    Vaeluaga Steve Jackson has emphasised the importance of consistency in team selection after confirming Chris Vui will captain Samoa in their Rugby World Cup clash with Russia.

    Samoa are without captain Jack Lam, who is injured, for their opening Pool A encounter in Kumagaya City on Tuesday.

    Jackson has kept faith with the majority of the side which started a 34-15 defeat to Australia in Samoa's final warm-up match, with Vui one of five changes.

    "The players that have been selected deserve their selection, especially after the Australian game," Jackson said.

    "Some players really put their hands up and that was what it was all about really. We want to keep consistency within the group and especially the starting fifteen.

    "I think we've done that - barring a few in the front row who deserve their opportunity after the Australian test."

    Russia were defeated 30-10 by hosts Japan in the World Cup's opening match, though Lyn Jones has made no changes.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Russia - Kirill Golosnitskiy

    Centre Golosnitskiy will always have the memory of scoring the first try in the 2019 World Cup. The 25-year-old also completed 90 per cent of his tackles as Russia were forced to defend for long periods after making such a fast start against Japan.

    Samoa - Tim Nanai-Williams

    Nanai-Williams, the cousin of Sonny Bill Williams, is perhaps the most notable name in the Samoa squad, having switched international allegiance from New Zealand. In a contest that Samoa will expect to win, the 30-year-old has the potential to have a decisive say on proceedings.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Russia are still searching for a first Rugby World Cup victory, they lost all four of their games at the 2011 edition as well as the opening match of the 2019 tournament.

    - Samoa have won only four of their last 18 Tests heading into the 2019 Rugby World Cup, losing each of their last three fixtures.

    - Samoan duo Christopher Vui (13) and Kane Leaupepe (10) won more line-outs (including steals) than any other players during the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup.

    - Kirill Golosnitskiy's fifth-minute try for Russia against Japan on Friday was the quickest try in the opening game at a World Cup, beating Israel Dagg's score in the 11th minute for New Zealand against Tonga in 2011.

    - Ed Fidow of Samoa has scored eight tries in eight Tests since making his debut in June 2018 - Samoa enjoy a 60 per cent win rate when he has crossed (W3, L2).

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