Amlin Challenge Cup - Round 1
Exiles retain Henson for Stade test
October 12, 2012
Gavin Henson will make his second start of the season © Getty Images
Gavin Henson will continue at fly-half for London Welsh as the Aviva Premiership newcomers step on to the Amlin Challenge Cup stage for their European debut against Stade Francais on Saturday.
The former Wales international made his much-anticipated return from injury last weekend as the Exiles gained a losing bonus-point in a 28-23 defeat to Saracens. Coach Lyn Jones though has rung the changes elsewhere following a busy period of Premiership action that has seen the Exiles pick up ten points with wins over Exeter and Sale Sharks as well as two losing bonus points.
Bath get their campaign underway in Romania against Bucuresti with 19-year-old academy fly-half Ollie Devoto handed the No.10 shirt. Flanker Ben Skirving will lead the side while there are also opportunities for wing Olly Woodburn, lock Will Spencer and No.8 Will Skuse. Anthony Perenise packs down in the front row alongside Nathan Catt and Ross Batty.
Elsewhere, Worcester journey to Spain to face Basque side Bizkaia Gernika. Andy Short and flanker Jake Abbott both return from injuries and England international scrum-half Paul Hodgson makes his first start since joining the Warriors from Irish.
London Irish are also on the road against Bordeaux and director of rugby Brian Smith believes the emphatic Premiership victory over Saints last weekend should not be underestimated. "Northampton was a big challenge for us because confidence wasn't high, but the boys really fronted-up," he said. "Northampton are tough and good enough to bully a lot of teams. The pack we played against, along with Leicester's, are the best in the league."
Guy Armitage and Chris Hala'ufia both make their first starts for Irish this season with the centre partnering Jonathan Joseph in midfield and the No.8 joining Jamie Gibson and Ofisa Treviranus in the backrow.
London Wasps face the Dragons at home with Christian Wade, James Haskell and Tom Palmer all rested. Jack Wallace replaces Wade on the wing while Ashley Johnson and Jonathan Poff both start in the back-row and Joe Launchbury moves to lock. Nicky Robinson is handed the No.10 jersey with his countryman Stephen Jones dropping to the bench.
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said: "Newport are a good honest side and if we are not 100 percent up for the challenge they will happily punish us. After our win last week we are looking to improve our performance and we will then hopefully get a couple of wins under our belt.
"In a couple of positions at this moment in time we have more than one player vying for the starting shirt and the next couple of weeks provide a good opportunity for someone to stick their hand up and let me know that they are number one."
Friday night's games see Top 14 side Grenoble host Cavalieri Prato at the Stade Lesdiguieres in Pool 5 while Bayonne entertain Mogliano in Pool 3.
For a full run-down of the weekend's fixtures, click here.
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