Weekend Preview: Racing Métro resistance set to strike back but Harlequins can take step forward

 

Rugby Union Correspondent

Harlequins v Racing Métro

The burning question: will the French bother this weekend, or will some of the biggest, richest, most ambitious clubs in Tricolore territory treat the Heineken Cup with the same scandalous level of indifference they showed last time out?

Racing Métro were hardly alone in underperforming in the first of the pivotal back-to-back matches – Montpellier, Perpignan and, depressingly, the four-time champions from Toulouse were also implicated – but  no one plumbed greater European depths than the Parisians.

Quins will be full of confidence tomorrow and if form is anything to go by, they will put themselves in a position to challenge for a place in the last eight – no mean feat after successive defeats in October. The visitors have been shamed into picking a half-decent side, with Jamie Roberts back in midfield after injury and Jonny Sexton starting at outside-half, but if they concede early, they could be just as hopeless as they were a week ago.

Montpellier v Leicester

You really have to wonder about this Montpellier lot. Having lost last Sunday’s game at Welford Road inside 20 minutes and then found a way of scoring four tries in consolation, they go into tomorrow’s return without many of their best players. François Trinh-Duc, Jonathan Pelissie and the superb Fijian wing Timoci Nagusa are all missing from the starting line-up, so the Midlanders can legitimately travel in hope.

Richard Cockerill, the English champions’ rugby director, has picked Niall Morris on the right wing and Thomas Waldrom at No 8. Otherwise, the Tigers look very much as they did last week, with the hot-shot wing Miles Benjamin present and correct in the back division.

Leinster v Northampton

There is no other way of putting it: Northampton were humiliated in front of their own last weekend, and have made big changes as a consequence. Salesi Ma’afu, Christian Day and Calum Clark all come into the pack, and will be expected to mix it with the Sean O’Briens and Jamie Heaslips of this world a whole lot more effectively than some of their colleagues did at Franklin’s Gardens. The Midlanders’ chances are on the line. It is time to put up or shut up.

Best of the rest

Gloucester may have all manner of issues in Premiership rugby, but they are in a decent place at European level all of a sudden, especially as Edinburgh travel south for tomorrow’s game without the likes of Nick De Luca, Greig Laidlaw and David Denton. Sila Puafisi, the Tonga international prop recruited to bolster the West Country club’s sparse front-row resources, is on the bench, with a nice new work permit safely in his back pocket.

Exeter, meanwhile, face the mother and father of a task in Toulon, even though the reigning European champions are giving Jonny Wilkinson some time to himself on the bench. Their outside-half today? That’ll be Matt Giteau, the Wallaby wizard who, on his day, is the best playmaking pivot in the tournament. Oh well.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own