European Challenge Cup - Round 2 Preview
Leeds and Worcester target opening wins
October 15, 2009

Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points as Toulon and Saracens opened the weekend's action with an entertaining opening match of the weekend as the French side ran out 31-23 winners at Stade Felix-Mayol.

The action continues tonight and after seeing off Albi 17-7 in their opening match of the competition, Montauban host a Petrarca side that lost narrowly to Newcastle 27-29 in their opening Pool 5 game. Petrarca led 17-0 at one stage before succumbing to a 29-27 defeat in dismal conditions.

Early Pool 2 table-toppers Connacht travel to France to face Montpellier on Friday on the back of a comfortable 46-6 win over Madrid. Second-row Michael Swift and wing Fion Carr both crossed twice as the Irish side ran in eight tries with Adrian Flavin, Mike McCarthy, Tiernan O'Halloran and Niva Ta'auso scoring the others. Montpellier lie second in the table after seeing off Worcester 22-17 in their opening match.

Michael Bradley makes five changes to the side that won in Galway with captain John Muldoon, Troy Nathan, Keith Matthews, Frank Murphy and Sean Cronin coming into the side. Mamuka Gorgodze returns to the second row in one of three changes for the French side.

Saturday's action sees Bourgoin travel to Bucuresti looking for their second win on the bounce after fly-half Alberto di Bernardo kicked 13 points to ensure they opened their European Challenge Cup campaign with a Pool 1 win over his former club Leeds. The home side took a 23-6 lead at half time with tries from Rudi Coetzee and David Janin, with Di Bernardo adding three penalties and two conversions.

New father, Benjamin Boyet and lock Mickael Forest are rested for the French side with Sebastien Laloo and Jeremy Gondrand deputise. Hooker Remy Vigneaux, wing Jean-Francois Coux and Florian Denos return from injury. Bucuresti also head into their second match in a confident frame of mind after the Romanians eased to a 21-9 victory over Italians Overmach Parma.

Worcester enjoyed a torrid start to their European campaign, losing their Pool 2 opening match against Montpellier and picking up a host of injuries into the bargain. Mike Ruddock is expected to make a number of changes against a Madrid side who lost their opening game 46-6 away at Connacht. Colum MacRae and Chris Pennell return from injury while fly-half George Crook will make his debut for the club.

Alex Grove and Greg King are paired together in the centre while hooker Chris Fortey captains the side. Ruddock tests out a youthful backrow of James Collins, Jake Abbott and Matt Cox.

After losing narrowly to Wasps in their opening fixture, Racing Metro 92 host a Bayonne side that thrashed Rugby Roma 61-3 in their Pool 4 opener. Racing make four changes with Frans Steyn and Sereli Bobo among those to miss out.

Both Rovigo and Castres go in search of their opening wins of the tournament as the two sides clash at the Stadio Mario Battaglini. Rovigo were well beaten by Saracens, who sit at the top of both Guinness Premiership and Challenge Cup tables, whilst Castres were also well beaten at home to Toulon in Pool 3.

Only Thomas Bouquie and Phil Christophers keep their place in the back line from that match for Castres, with Romain Teulet one of the new faces, while Joe Tekori is the sole survivor in the pack.

Wasps travel to Rugby Roma after making heavy weather of their European opener in prevailing 18-13 against French side Racing Metro 92. The Parisians led 10-9 at half-time but six Dave Walder penalties were enough.

Wasps will again have to do without Danny Cipriani, who suffered a small hairline fracture to his right fibula against Northampton and also misses England's autumn internationals. They have a crisis at hooker with Saxons hooker Joe Ward the only seniour number two available.

Fullback Leigh Hinton is set to make his first appearance of the season as Leeds Carnegie host Parma in Pool 1 on Sunday. Last season's top try-scorer has not yet featured because of a shoulder injury picked up in the pre-season tour of France.

Another shoulder injury, however, is set to rule out Carnegie No.8 Danny Paul for at least four months after he underwent surgery. Leeds will also be without Tom Denton and Joe Bedford for the visit of the Italians. Bedford picked up a knock against Bourgoin on Friday - his first appearance of the season - while Denton has flu.

Newcastle Falcons stuttered to a 29-27 Pool 5 win over Petrarca on Sunday but should overcome an Albi side that lost 7-17 at home to Montauban. The Falcons are attempting to reach the tournament knock-out stages for the ninth time with Kiwi skipper Carl Hayman determined to lead them to a tenth.

Tonga international Josh Afu will make his debut for the hosts alongside England under 20 international Will Welch who makes his first home start at open-side. Felipo Levi returns at number eight, Matt Thompson starts at hooker while Jimmy Gopperth and Charlie Amesbury will start in the back line.

Martin Gady, Sebastien Delpeuch and Clement Maynadier all come into the pack for Albi.


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