Exiles draw on Samoan strength as they prepare for Irish duel
This Weekend's Games
Saturday 09 October 2010
London Irish v Munster
Samoan Sailosi Tagicakibau has been restored to the Exiles' line-up for this evening's emerald affair at the Madejski Stadium.
The teenager Jonathan Joseph caught the eye during Tagicakibau's recent injury absence, but there was little chance of him holding his place on the wing once the islander scored two tries off the bench last weekend. Daniel Bowden has been relegated to the bench – a move that allows two more Samoans, the centres Seilala Mapusua and Elvis Seveali'i, to resume their midfield partnership.
Munster have the ancient combination of Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer at half-back, but a three-quarter line boasting such contrasting talents as Doug Howlett, Keith Earls and Sam Tuitupou. Still without Paul O'Connell up front, they will expect much from a back-row unit led by the aggressive Denis Leamy.
Clermont Auvergne v Saracens
Clermont have big-name players coming out of their cauliflower ears: Julien Malzieu, Aurélien Rougerie, Marius Joubert, Morgan Parra. And that's before we get to the pack. They also have a Fijian by the name of Napolioni Nalaga, who appears to score every time he touches the ball.
The visitors have two of their brightest young players, the full-back Alex Goode and the flanker Andy Saull, back after injury, and they will add guile and gas to the mix.
Bath v Biarritz
The West Countrymen are to give the 22-year-old prop Nathan Catt a start in the front row tomorrow. They have not, however, extended the youth policy to the back row. Neither Josh Ovens nor Guy Mercer will fill in for the injured Lewis Moody on the open-side flank. Instead, Simon Taylor will play out of position at No 7.
Last season's runners-up travel with the outstanding Dimitri Yachvili at scrum-half, the former Bath player Iain Balshaw on the wing and the occasional England flanker Magnus Lund among the loosies. The majestic No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy is also listed – he could win this on his own.
Toulouse v Wasps
Wasps are short at prop – Tim Payne is injured, Phil Vickery has shingles – and will do well to emerge from the champions' lair in one piece. Toulouse have all their artillery available, from Clément Poitrenaud at full-back to Thierry Dusautoir on the flank. Maxime Médard can only make the bench. Scary.
Treviso v Leicester
Leicester have Toby Flood back at outside-half a little earlier than expected. Treviso have never been any mugs at home, though, and they will certainly pose a threat.
Toulon v Ospreys
The Welsh region are at something close to full strength, and if they find a way of limiting Jonny Wilkinson's kicks, they may confirm their credentials as semi-final candidates.
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