Rugby Union: Operation Europe: Paul Trow assesses the opening Heineken Cup ties

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Pool A: Leicester v Milan

Last season's beaten finalists Leicester are at full strength which means that two of the greatest back row forwards in the club's history - the former England and Lions No 8 Dean Richards and local farmer John Wells - will be among seven players on the home bench. Lions captain Martin Johnson will lead Leicester against the Italian underdogs whose line-up includes the world-class winger Paolo Vaccari, Italy's top try scorer Marcello Cuttitta, the Argentine scrumhalf Fabio Gomez, capped 11 times, and the New Zealand No 8 Richard Turner, formerly of North Harbour.

(kick-off 3pm)

Pool B: Swansea v Wasps

The England and Lions lock Simon Shaw is again rested by English club champions Wasps because of the back strain which has troubled him since joining the North London club from Bristol. Wasps are also without full back Jon Ufton, who had an operation on Thursday on the knee cartillage injury he suffered last weekend, while tight-head prop Will Green is also sidelined with a bruised hip. Swansea, however, are likely to be at full strength and have been buoyed by the news that their Lions centre Scott Gibbs has been declared fit again after missing the start of the season with a chronic ankle injury. (kick-off 3.15pm)

Pool B: Ulster v Glasgow

Scotland lock Shade Munro is ruled out of Glasgow's campaign with a knee injury though he is expected to return to action towards the end of the year. Glasgow's 22-year-old full-back Craig Sangster, by contrast, cheered the visitors with a swift recovery from a broken finger to confirm his place in the starting line-up for Monday's game. Among Glasgow's selections is lock forward Chas Afuakwah, a 31-year-old dentist. Ulster, following their 22-12 victory over title-holders Munster in the Irish Inter-Provincial Championship last weekend, look set to field a line-up which is light on international players but long on commitment to the region's cause. (kick- off, Monday 7pm)

Pool C: Pontypridd v Bath

Lions hero Neil Jenkins has recovered from the rib cartilage and tongue injuries he suffered against Cardiff a fortnight ago to take his place in the Welsh champions side to face Bath. The home side's prolific wing David Manley has also recovered from injury to play against Bath, who have named their strongest side of the season so far. England full-back Jon Callard returns to captain the side at full back with Matt Perry switching to the right wing and Mike Catt moving from fly-half to centre. Ricky Pellow, a 19-year-old scrum-half, has also been named in the line-up which features an all-international pack. (kick-off, 2.15pm)

Pool C: Brive v Scottish Borders

On the face of it, the Scottish visitors face a daunting prospect when they visit the defending champions in France. Apart from the scintillating skills of three-quarters Christophe Lamaison, David Venditti and Sebastian Viars, the home side boast a heavy and powerful pack and are likely to be brimful of confidence against a team which badly under-achieved last season. However, a number of Scottish players - including the scrum-half Bryan Redpath, fly-half Craig Chalmers, wing Tony Stanger and prop Peter Wright - will be keen to give a good account of themselves before the Scottish selectors gather for the forthcoming international contests. (kick- off, 2.15pm)

Pool D: Harlequins v Munster

Former England captain Will Carling, who suffered a calf injury during the first Saturday of the season a fortnight ago, returns to the Quins line-up alongside Tongan Johnny Ngauamo at centre. The Quins captain, Lions and Ireland hooker Keith Wood, will be playing against his former team-mates for the first time whilst the talented French wing Laurent Belligoi makes his Quins' debut. For Munster, the veteran New Zealand centre Rhys Ellison makes his debut and there are also recalls for three international players - centre Sean McCahill, scrum-half Steve McIvor and No 8 Anthony Foley. (kick-off, 2pm)

Pool D: Bourgoin v Cardiff

Former Dunvant scrum-half Steve Wake will play his third game for Cardiff while the Wales and Lions No 9 Robert Howley continues to recover from a shoulder injury. Gregori Kacala, the Polish flanker who starred in Brive's victory in last season's final, lines up against the Frenchmen as does former Wales A lock Tony Rees. Former Wales captain Mike Hall returns at centre while No 8 Steve Williams is one of four internationals on the Cardiff bench. Bourgoin has a dangerous backline which includes internationals Stephane Glas and Laurent Leflamand while they are captained by 38-year- old No 8 Marc Cecillon, a veteran of 46 internationals.

(kick-off, 3.05pm)

Pool E: Caledonia v Llanelli

Lions prop Tom Smith is still recovering from the back injury he suffered in South Africa and not only misses today's game against Llanelli in Perth, but most of his side's other pool games as well. Internationals Kevin McKenzie (hooker) and Stewart Campbell (lock) are also ruled out through injury but it is not all gloom as Caledonia will be captained by Scotland No 8 Rob Wainwright who has recovered from a sternum injury. Llanelli, still coming to terms with the loss of Ieuan Evans, are near to full-strength although wing Garan Evans and second row Vernon Cooper are still recovering from injuries. (kick-off, 3pm)

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