European Professional Rugby Club | Final domestic games before Heineken Champions Cup
The majority of Heineken Champions Cup sides are involved in this weekend’s domestic action, the final round of fixtures before EPCR’s elite competition gets underway in a weeks’ time.
Squads are bolstered by returning internationals following the Autumn Tests, and the teams will be looking to come into the Heineken Champions Cup on top form.
Harlequins are away at EPCR Challenge Cup outfit Bath Rugby in the Gallagher Premiership tonight, and center Oscar Beard comes in as fly-half Marcus Smith and utility back Joe Marchant are rested.
In tonight’s United Rugby Championship (URC) games, Cell C Sharks welcome back South Africa internationals in prop Ox Nche, hooker Bongi Mbonamb, scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse and wing Makazole Mapimpi for their home clash with Ospreys.
Edinburgh Rugby host Munster Rugby in another all-Heineken Champions Cup contest, with the likes of prop Pierre Schoeman, wing Duhan van der Merwe and fly-half Blair Kinghorn back for the home team, while the visitors have brought in wing Simon Zebo.
On Saturday, Heineken Champions Cup contenders Gloucester Rugby and Northampton Saints face off in the Premiership at Kingsholm Stadium.
Jonny May is back on the wing for Gloucester, with Northampton boosted by the returns of wing Tommy Freeman, flanker Alex Coles and hooker Sam Matavesi.
Winners this decade:
2020 – @ExeterChiefs
2021 – @StadeToulousain
2022 – @StadeRochelais
2023 – ❓
Only a week to wait until the next #HeinekenChampionsCup campaign begins… pic.twitter.com/D0vVoRzuzO
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 2, 2022
Elsewhere in the Premiership, Leicester Tigers host EPCR Challenge Cup side Newcastle Falcons and have full-back Freddie Steward and scrum-halves Ben Youngs and Jack van Poortvliet back at their disposal, with center Dan Kelly making his return from injury.
London Irish also face EPCR Challenge Cup opposition and see club milestones for flanker Matt Rogerson and prop Oliver Hoskins, who are set to hit 100 games and 150 games respectively, as they travel to Bristol Bears.
In Saturday’s URC games, Leinster Rugby welcome Ulster Rugby in a top-of-the-table clash. Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, wing James Lowe and full-back Hugo Keenan are back for Leinster while Ulster can name the midfield pairing of James Hume and Stuart McCloskey for the first time this season.
Ahead of their Heineken Champions Cup debuts, South African sides DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls host Dragons and Cardiff Rugby respectively.
Lock Salmaan Moerat and fly-half Manie Libbok are among those returning for DHL Stormers, with flanker Marco Van Staden and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse part of a large contingent back for Vodacom Bulls.
In the TOP 14 on Saturday, ASM Clermont Auvergne welcome fellow Heineken Champions Cup side Montpellier Hérault Rugby, while Lyon are at Aviron Bayonnais, Stade Toulousain host USAP, Union Bordeaux-Bègles entertain CA Brive and Stade Rochelais visit Stade Français Paris.
On Sunday, Castres Olympique are at home to Section Paloise and Racing 92 are away at RC Toulon.