The 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup is going down way on Friday night as former European champions Taking Northampton Saints on triple runnersup Racing 92 in Franklin’s Gardens, and we take a look at what to expect in this Pool A clash…
Meet the teams
It’s been 21 years since Northampton released their… one and so far only success in Europe’s premiere club competition and they are back in the Champions Cup after spending the 2020/21 season in the secondtier Challenge Cup.
The closest thing the Saints have had since 2000 in have come close to the title was defeat to a Johnny Sexton-inspired Leinster side in the 2011 final in cardiff, met failed until progress beyond the quarter-final phase in each of their European campaigns at the highest level since then.
However, the East Midlands outfit come in here year’s opening Champions Cup clash in third place in the Gallagher Premiership and with back-until-back wins over Bristol Bears and fighters Bath in the bag.
Racing, meanwhile head to Europe after suffering three consecutive defeats in the French Top 14 league making them sixth in the table. However, those losses were preceded by a 27-18 . win over Champions Cup holders Toulouse.
The Parisians have the final of this competition three times but have been beaten on any occasion – most recent in the postponed 2020 final when they went down 31-27 to Exeter Chiefs behind closed doors at Ashton Gate in Bristol.
Last season saw them bend out at the quarter-final stage, though, like Matthieu Jalibert’s penalty on the final play of the game took a 24-21 win for fellow French side Bordeaux-Begles.
Who do you need in keep an eye out? on
there are enough of eye-catching individual battles across the street from the park, but one of the most exciting is the battle of the two British & Irish Lions fly halves.
Northampton and Wales No. 10 Dan Biggar becomes up against Scotland star Finn Russell, who is now on its fourth season in a racing shirt, in What’s sure being a compelling one showdown.
Saints rugby director Chris Boyd is well aware of the danger posed by the unpredictable Russell, though he also know how much of the influence of both flight halves is largely determined by how their respective packs front up.
“For a quarterback of a 10, often the ride die they get from the guys by one up to eight makes a significant difference,” Boyd said.
“forefoot” ball and the speed of the ball in areas, there are a whole load of factors in Which. But Russell is clearly a bit of a wizard, and if he is… on to be game, he can cast a pretty bad spell.”
what they say
To race captain Henry Chavancy knows it all too well just how painful it has been for To race in European campaigns during the past five years.
The former France international played in the middle in the Champions Cup final defeats against Saracens, Leinster and Exeter, with the most recent two saw them get beaten by just three and four points respectively.
Of just four matches is being played in the pool stages of this season tournament – To race face Northampton and Ospreys home and away – the 33-year-old is all too aware of how she need to get off to a flying one start at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday.
“We know what we need to do to hopefully win the trophy’ said Chavancy. ‘It is… up until us now put all the ingredients together and do whatever it takes to get back to the final and around the . to lift trophy.
“The smallest of defeats can be crippling. We begin with a very difficult one match against Northampton, away from? home, so we will be in immediately the deep in.
“We know good need An win if we hope to do something in this competition. It’s exciting and stressful at the same time.”
At the other end of the shell is Saints skipper Lewis Ludlam, the 26-year-old England international who is under a link of homegrown players leave their mark on Northampton and are excited to do so in Europe too.
“It’s knock-on almost every weekout rugby and that’s something we over will talk, something we… need to understand – that you don’t get many chances of playing in European competitions and get opportunities to win European trophies too,” said Ludlam.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to see where we stand in Europe, and it’s a great possibility for us younger guys to be able step up and show we are real contenders in the European competitions.”
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank; 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Nick Auterac, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Ehren Painter, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Karl Wilkins, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 8 Juarno Augustus.
substitutions: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Ollie Sleightholme.
Racing 92: 15 Kurtley Beale; 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Viremi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Juan Imhoff; Finn Russell, 9M Machenaud; 1 Guram Gogichashvili, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 3 Ali Oz, 4 Luke Jones, 5 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Ibrahim Diallo, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 8 Yoan Tanga.
substitutions: 16 Camile Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 21 Antoine Gibert, 22 Henry Chavancy, 23 Donovan Taofifenua.
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