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European Rugby is back in Wales this weekend with two Pro teams kicking off their campaign with home ties on Sunday as the Ospreys take on Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup and the Newport Gwent Dragons are at home to Sale Sharks in the Challenge Cup.

The first European action to kick off will be Cardiff Blues as they travel away to Rugby Calvisano in Italy on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm local time).

Prop Dillon Lewis makes his full debut while scrum half Lloyd Williams becomes a centurion as Cardiff Blues Wales Under-20 ace Lewis starts in a front row that also contains Gethin Jenkins and Kristian Dacey for the fixture at the Peroni Stadium.

Williams hits his memorable milestone by playing his 100th game in the number nine jersey and combines with Rhys Patchell at half back.

Head Coach Danny Wilson has named a powerful side that contains just two changes to the team that narrowly lost out to reigning Guinness PRO12 league champions Glasgow Warriors last weekend.

Rising star Lewis comes in at tighthead prop while the other change is a recall for former All Black lock Jarrad Hoeata into the second row to partner James Down.

USA international Blaine Scully also makes a welcome return among the replacements. Cam Dolan, Sam Hobbs and Josh Navidi both miss the European fixture due to injury.

Wilson said: “We’re looking forward to the European competition. It is another series of games to build on what we are improving on and the lessons we have learnt from the league.

“Calvisano away is a challenge similar to Zebre away and we have got to face it better than we did last time. After that we have Harlequins at home with a short turnaround; we have some huge games coming up.

“We are looking no further than Calvisano in this competition and building on our performance with each week. We need to build momentum as we look to a big two months and the festive derby games coming up too. The games are coming thick and fast and we’ve got to approach each one with the same detail.”

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Dillon Lewis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 James Down, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Josh Turnbull

Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Blaine Scully

SCARLETS

Scarlets have named a strong side, including ten internationally honoured players, to take on Northampton Saints in the opening round of the 2015-16 European Rugby Champions Cup campaign. Head Coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes, one of which positional, to the side that narrowly lost to Leinster last weekend.

Michael Tagicakibau moves to the right wing with Canadian Rugby World Cup sensation DTH van der Merwe making a return to action for what will be his third Scarlets appearance. Steve Shingler has recovered from a toe injury that kept him out of last week’s game.

In the pack Samoan international Maselino Paulino will make his first start for the region with Lewis Rawlins moving to the replacements bench.

Centre Gareth Owen will make his 50th appearance for the region hoping to mark the occasion with a victory in the opening round of the competition.

Head Coach Wayne Pivac said: “We’re going in with an open mind; we’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“We’re probably seeded last in the pool on last year’s results but we’re going to take it game by game. We will look at each opposition in its own right and each will be a huge challenge in different ways. We’re looking at it week by week but there’s no doubt we’re going out to get a result this weekend.”

Scarlets team to take on Northampton Saints in the opening round of the European Rugby Champions Cup at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 7.45pm; 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Peter Edwards, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Maselino Paulino, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay [c]

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Phil John, Will Taylor, Tom Price, Lewis Rawlins, Aled Davies, Regan King, Tom Williams

OSPREYS

The Ospreys say they will still need to go up a few notches this weekend after a win and showing good character last weekend in the Guinness PRO12 against Zebre.

Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: “It was much better from us last weekend against Zebre but we are all well aware that we need to go up quite a few notches now over the coming weeks. The character of the squad came through last Saturday, there was belief in what we were doing and a desire to represent what the Ospreys are about but that has to be just the starting point for us.

“The focus switches now to the European Rugby Champions Cup, the northern hemisphere’s flagship competition and one that has got even better and even tougher after the changes made with the restructuring last year. Every pool is a pool of death now.

“You look at the fixtures coming up, Clermont Auvergne, who have been in two of the last three European Cup finals, losing French T14 finalists earlier this year and are the current league leaders, Bordeaux with their new world class signings and Exeter, in great form and second in the Aviva Premiership, it really doesn’t get any tougher. You have to be full of respect for Exeter and all they’ve achieved over the last few years, coming up from the Championship and establishing themselves as one of England’s leading clubs.

“As a coach or a player, it is really exciting to be involved in games like this. It’s why you are involved in professional rugby in the first place, for big matches and big occasions. Sunday has all the historic association of traditional Anglo Welsh clashes, it’s what supporters say they want, hopefully we’ll get the crowd to mark the occasion.

“We have to accept that from the outside the perception will very much be that we are going into the competition as underdogs based on factors including current form, budget, etc and are comfortable with that. Only performance can change that perception. We know that we will need to make a huge step up from where we have been so far this season and we’ll need to get our preparation right on and off the field, and live the words that we talk about regularly, being clinicial, accurate, diligent. If we don’t, we’ll be in for a tough few weeks but we want this period to be where we kick start the season.”

The Ospreys team to play Exeter Chiefs at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday 15th November 2015, KO 5.30pm, is as follows:  15 Dan Evans; 14 Dafydd Howells; 13 Jonathan Spratt; 12 Josh Matavesi; 11 Eli Walker; 10 Dan Biggar; 9 Brendon Leonard 1 Paul James; 2 Scott Baldwin; 3 Dmitri Arhip; 4 Lloyd Ashley; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) 6 Dan Lydiate; 7 Justin Tipuric; 8 James King

16 Sam Parry; 17 Ryan Bevington; 18 Aaron Jarvis; 19 Rory Thornton; 20 Dan Baker; 21 Tom Habberfield; 22 Sam Davies; 23 Ben John.

Dafydd Howells makes his European Cup debut. Rory Thornton will make his European Cup debut if he comes off the bench

 

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 

Newport Gwent Dragons Director of Rugby, Lyn Jones has named his side for the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener against Sale Sharks.

Evans is the only personnel change made to last weekends starting XV, with Ed Jackson moving across to cover the number eight position. Rugby World Cup star Taulupe Faletau is subject to a late fitness test after sustaining an minor injury against Ulster.

Fullback Carl Meyer is joined once again in the back three by wingers Ashton Hewitt and Nick Scott. The centre pairing of Adam Hughes and Adam Warren also get the nod. Dorian Jones retains his number 10 jersey with Sarel Pretorius joining him in the halfbacks.

The front row includes hooker Elliot Dee who is joined by props Boris Stankovich and Shaun Knight. The second row includes Cory Hill and skipper Rynard Landman, with a back row of Lewis Evans, Ollie Griffiths and Ed Jackson.

Looking back at his first start last weekend, flanker Ollie Griffiths commented: “It would have been a lot better if we had come away with a win but it was nice to get out there and get a full 80 under my belt.

“I made a couple of mistakes out there that I will be looking to put right but I was relatively happy with my performance.

“Fair play, Cuddy (Nic Cudd) has been playing really well and there’s good competition with him and James Benjamin.

“It was nice to get a chance to get out there against Ulster and I’m excited for another chance against Sale.”

Dragons team to face Sale Sharks: Carl Meyer, Ashton Hewitt, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Nick Scott, Dorian Jones, Sarel Pretorius; Boris Stankovich, Elliot Dee, Shaun Knight, Cory Hill, Rynard Landman ©, Lewis Evans, Ollie Griffiths, Ed Jackson.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Taulupe Faletau, Charlie Davies, Jason Tovey, Ross Wardle.