Glasgow Warriors v Ulster
When: Tonight 8.0pm
Where can I watch? Sky Sports 2.
The Story so far: Ulster played a perfect game at home to Castres in round one, but they only did so for around 40 of the 80 minutes.
Winning convincingly and with three tries in the bag after 42 minutes, the northern province appeared to seize up with the line in sight. Passes were forced and missed their targets, so too the line-outs. It took a carefree Castres to continue running the ball with the game long lost – and a little bit of magic from Jared Payne, Luke Marshall and Ruan Pienaar – to bring Friday night at Ravenhill to a rapturous conclusion.
Glasgow too got off to a wonderful start last week only to cough, splutter and grind to a halt in Northampton. The Warriors led the 2011 runners-up 15-0 after 30 minutes, but could not manage another score as the Saints went some way to exorcising the ghosts of the Millennium stadium with four tries amongst 24 unanswered points.
Team news: Mark Anscombe has made just two changes to the side which started against Castres last week, the Kiwi has opted to relegate man-of-the-match Paul Marshall to the bench to allow Pienaar work his inimitable skills from the off.
Another BIG presence back in situ is number eight Nick Williams. He returns from a rib injury sustained in the barnstorming performance against Connacht, replacing Mike McComish. Stephen Ferris is still suffering with the back injury which forced him out of the opening fixture at the last minute.
The Scottish side’s injury count greatly dwarfs that of Ulster. Duncan Weir and Sean Lamont are missing from the back-line, but the pack have been defanged by the absence of front rows Moray Low, Ed Kalman, Jon Welsh and Pat MacArthur. Still, with Ali Kellock and Chris Fusaro on board, they won’t move aside lightly.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; B McGuigan, P Murchie, P Horne, A Dunbar; R Jackson, H Pyrgos; R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack; T Ryder, A Kellock (capt); J Strauss, C Fusaro, R Wilson.
Replacements: F Gillies, O Faingaanuku, G Reid, T Swinson, R Harley, J Barclay, S Wight, N Matawalu.
Ulster: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (c), D Tuohy, I Henderson, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, M McComish, P Marshall, L Marshall, C Gilroy.
Llanelli Scarlets v Leinster
When: Saturday 1.35pm
Where can I watch? Sky Sports 1.
The Story so far: Leinster have been a mixed bag so far this season, but despite being largely out-fought by the Exeter Chiefs on the English club’s big European debut, the scraped a win and travel intent on adding another four points.
It’s the pool of death, so defeat for the Scarlets will effectively quash all hope of them advancing to the knockout stages. However, the Welsh province were hugely impressive for the opening half hour of last weekend’s trip to Clermont. Level at 13-13 in the toughest venue in Europe, they were cruelly stripped of wing Morgan Stoddart who was issued a second yellow card not long after being stamped on by Nathan Hines (who has since been cited and banned).
Team news: Yesterday, we brought you the news hat Gordon D’Arcy would return to the starting XV and he has. The selection dilemma facing Joe Schmidt was whether to retain Ian Madigan at fullback. He has. Andrew Conway drops to the bench as Fergus McFadden switches to the wing. The only other change comes at hooker, where Sean Cronin has been picked ahead of Richardt Strauss.
Scarlets boss Simon Easterby has also made two changes from week 1. One of them is enforced as Welsh Grand Slam winner Jonathan Davies misses out with a groin issue. he is replaced by Gareth Maule at outside centre. The other change sees Stoddart dropped to the bench after his 25 minute outing in France. Andrew Fenby takes up the spot on the left wing.
Llanelli Scarlets: L Williams; G North, G Maule, S Williams, A Fenby; R Priestland, T Knoyle. P John, M Rees, S Lee; G Earle, J Snyman; A Shingler, J Turnbull, R McCusker.
Replacements: K Owens, S Hopkins, D Manu, T Vallejos, J Edwards, G Davies, A Thomas, M Stoddart.
Leinster: I Madigan; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross; L Cullen (c), D Browne; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Strauss, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, D Toner, J Murphy, I Boss, A Conway, F Carr.
Connacht v Harlequins
When: Saturday 6.0pm
Where can I watch? Have your Sky red button at the ready.
The Story so far: Last week, Connacht recorded their second consecutive Heineken Cup win against Zebre in Parma, but the result didn’t quite match expectations after Eric Elwood’s side came close to a bonus point win at the same venue last month.
The story of this game revolves around the clubs’ familiarity with one another and that gripping game last January when the western province denied Conor O’Shea’s men a place in the quarter finals. O’Shea and co. produced a worryingly brilliant display last weekend in beating Biarritz 40-13. And Connacht flanker John Muldoon says they will have revenge in mind tomorrow.
Team news: Elwood has made only one enforced change with the injured Ethienne Reynecke making way for Adrian Flavin. O’Shea too has been forced into a change, his top points-scorer Nick Evans has been ruled out so Ben Botica will take up the reins at out-half. An ankle injury has also claimed wing Ugo Monye. His vacancy paves the way for Sam Smith on the wing.
Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, A Flavin, N White (c); M Swift, M McCarthy; J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu.
Replacements: J Harris-Wright, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, D Gannon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, M Fifita.
Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, M Hooper, J Turner-Hall, S Smith; B Botica, D Care. J marler, R Buchanan, J Johnston; O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa’asavalu, C Robshaw, N Easter (c).
Replacements: D Ward, M Lambert, W Collier, C Mathews, T Guest, K Dickson, R Clegg, S Stegmann.
Munster v Edinburgh
When: Sunday 12.45
Where can I watch? Sky Sports 2.
The Story so far: Munster have lost their last three consecutive games, but all have been away from home. This weekend, they are back o the hallowed turf of Thomond Park. The only problem is the time. Easy like a Sunday morning doesn’t play well when you’re looking for an intimidating rugby crowd. So we reckon that Rob Penney’s side will have to push out some of the good champagne rugby early on to get the crowd into the game before lunch.
Edinburgh’s Pro12 form appears o have finally caught up with hem in Europe. Michael Bradley’s side managed to plod through the Rabodirect league last year while peaking for eight games to take a place in the Heineken Cup semi-final where they were knocked out b Ulster. Last week though, they shipped an embarrassing 45 points at home to Saracens. Against his home province, Bradley will surely have all guns blazing to redress the balance.
Team news: The man, the legend, Donncha O’Callaghan is back in harness for Penney and so Billy Holland is moved to the bench as the old second row partnership with Paul O’Connell is rekindled.
Bradley has made five changes from last weekend’s drubbing. Greig Toinks, Ben Atiga, Gregor Hunter, Geoff Cross and Netani Talei all come into the side, with Hunter operating at number 10 in place of injured captain Greig Laidlaw.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett (c), C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray. D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell; D Ryan, S Dougall, P O’Mahony.
Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, F Jones.
Edinburgh: G Toinks; L Jones, N de Luca, B Atiga, T Visser; G Hunter, R Rees. J Yapp, R Ford, G Cross; G Gilchris, S Cox; D Denton, S McInally, N Talei.
Replacements: A Titterrell, R Hislop, W Nel, McAlpine, D Basilaia, C Leck, M Scott, T Brown.