This weekend it is a second quickly squeezed-in round of European games before the festive double-headers, with Edinburgh visiting Wasps knowing an away win could put them in a very good position indeed and Glasgow looking to back up a strong win away in France with the same (or better) at home.
It also means another week, another international retirement – this time Tommy Seymour is hanging up the Scotland shirt after a very useful career including 20 tries, 55 caps and a Lions tour where he was the top try scorer. He’s still only 31 so could continue to be useful to Glasgow for a few seasons yet.
Wasps vs Edinburgh
Date: Sat 14 December 2019
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Any sort of result here keeps Edinburgh in the hunt in their pool, but an away win would be a serious plus. It’s a little less likely with a team missing a few senior players (Matt Scott, Blair Kinghorn, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay) but it could be enough if Wasps continue to misfire – they fell off badly in the second half at Murrayfield.
It’s a good chance to see a fresh second-row pairing of Lewis Carmichael and Sam Thomson too. Thomson has had quite an interesting rugby career even for 25 and was thought to be on the verge of a Super Rugby deal when Cockerill called him home.
As mentioned above, several players are rested or injured so you wouldn’t quite call it the first XV but the bench still looks stacked with power including Scotland captain Stuart McInally and Magnus Bradbury, as well as the return of WP Nel in the front row.
Fun fact: Wasps winger Josh Bassett was born in Edinburgh.
Wasps: 15. Matteo Minozzi, 14. Marcus Watson, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Jimmy Gopperth, 11. Josh Bassett, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 9. Will Porter; 1. Ben Harris, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 4. Tim Cardall, 5. Charlie Matthews, 6. Ashley Johnson, 7. Thomas Young (c), 8. Nizaam Carr.
Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre, 17. Tom West, 18. Bi Alo, 19. Theo Vukasinovic, 20. Ben Morris, 21. Sam Wolstenholme, 22. Jacob Umaga, 23. Juan De Jongh.
Edinburgh Rugby: 15. Damien Hoyland, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. James Johnstone, 12. George Taylor, 11. Jamie Farndale, 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Nic Groom (capt); 1. Rory Sutherland, 2. Mike Willemse, 3. WP Nel, 4. Sam Thomson, 5. Lewis Carmichael, 6. Jamie Ritchie, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Viliame Mata.
Replacements: 16. Stuart McInally, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Ben Toolis, 20. Magnus Bradbury, 21. Charlie Shiel, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Mark Bennett.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Edinburgh unavailable: Eroni Sau, Cameron Fenton, John Barclay, Rory Darge, Luke Crosbie, Matt Scott, Chris Dean, Fraser McKenzie
This should be the link for the livestream: https://epcrugby.com/challenge-cup/latest-video/epcrtv/r4/ (not guaranteed, if not follow the main EPCRTV link and register).
Glasgow Warriors vs La Rochelle
Date: Sat 14 December 2019
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Big news for Glasgow this week are the transfer rumours linking both Leone Nakarawa and Nick Abendanon with moves to Scotstoun. Nakarawa has been let go by Racing92 and the prevailing wisdom seems to be he’ll sign a short term deal with his former club till the end of the season then move on to somewhere with a bigger chequebook thereafter, assuming the disciplinary issues that saw him given the boot don’t resurface.
Experienced fullback Abendanon (33) is also being let go by a French club (in better circumstances) and a solid set of hands at the back could be something that Danny Wilson would consider as a stopgap measure while he takes stock of potential talent in the academies that could be brought through.
On to the game, and Glasgow pulled off a great win in France last weekend that travelled under the radar a little, perhaps because performances have been so poor otherwise. This week Dave Rennie has named a strong team including the first start for Aki Seiuli at loosehead; but otherwise it looks like a first choice pack.
A start for Huw Jones will please his fans and all in all it looks like a fast-paced team with Kyle Steyn continuing a stint on the wing while Sam Johnson drops out of the 23 altogether in favour of Ruaridh Jackson on the bench. Worth a watch for the mullet alone.
Glasgow Warriors: 15. Tommy Seymour, 14. Niko Matawalu, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Stafford McDowell, 11. Kyle Steyn, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ali Price, 1. Aki Seiuli, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Callum Gibbins (capt), 8. Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Adam Nicol, 19. Robert Harley, 20. Tom Gordon, 21. George Horne, 22. Nick Grigg, 23. Ruaridh Jackson.
La Rochelle: 15. Kini Murimurivalu, 14. Jules Favre, 13. Brieuc Plessis-Couillaud, 12. Levani Botia, 11. Marc Andreu, 10. Brock James, 9. Alexi Bales, 1. Reda Wardi, 2. Facundo Bosch, 3. Sila Puafisi, 4. Thomas Lavault, 5. Mathieu Tanguy, 6. Kevin Gourdon (c), 7. Paul Boudehent, 8. Grégory Alldritt.
Replacements: 16. Brendan Lebrun, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Vincent Pelo, 19. Rémi Leroux, 20. Zeno Kieft, 21. Thomas Berjon, 22. Ihaia West, 23. Pierre Aguillon.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Glasgow unavailable: Nick Frisby (ankle), Oli Kebble (head), Siua Halanukonuka (calf), Pete Horne (head), Paddy Kelly (hamstring), Kiran McDonald (hip), D’arcy Rae (hand), Ratu Tagive (hamstring), Brandon Thomson (calf) and Jale Vakaloloma (shoulder).
Finn Russell switches to the bench this week for Racing92’s visit to Ospreys (picked at 23) as does Greig Laidlaw for Clermont. Somewhat forgotten man (2 caps) James Lang starts for Harlequins as does Sean Maitland for Saracens. Recovering from a knock that cut short a blistering performance last weekend, Stuart Hogg starts for Exeter against a Sale team featuring Byron McGuigan (and Cameron Redpath). Locks Alex Craig and Richie Gray both start their games.
Chris Harris and Duncan Taylor are all named in the replacements for their clubs.
In the Challenge Cup Alex Dunbar, Duncan Weir and Cornell du Preez all start this weekend but no sign of Blade Thomson.
Referee Sam Grove-White takes charge of Scarlets v Bayonne.