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Excitement is building for a huge weekend of European Rugby for the four Welsh professional teams with quarter-final places in the Champions Cup still up for grabs for Scarlets and Ospreys.

The Cardiff Blues top their pool in the Challenge Cup and have already secured a quarter-final place after their big win against Toulouse at home last weekend and travel to Lyon to make it back-to-back wins against French opposition.

Dragons will rely on other results to go their way but still have an opportunity to qualify for the Challenge Cup knock-out stages if they win against Bordeaux-Begles at home with a bonus point and by a margin of 9 points.

Three consecutive wins for Scarlets have set-up a thriller at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday evening as West Wales rugby welcomes RC Toulon who have a one-point advantage at the top of Pool 5. Wayne Pivac’s side won the corresponding fixture at Parc y Scarlets last season which is their only victory in five previous meetings with the three-time champions.

The Ospreys travel to ASM Clermont Auvergne for their clash at Marcel-Michelin with Pool 2 supremacy on the line. Holders Saracens could also book a knockout place at the death as they host Northampton Saints who are hoping to end a run of three games without a win.

It’s going to be a thrilling Round 6 conclusion on what is traditionally one of the great weekends in world rugby.

Europe’s top rugby sides will know by Sunday if they are among the five pool winners or three best runners-up whose journeys towards the landmark Finals in Bilbao are set to continue. With as many as 15 clubs still on a mission, and the other five ready to come out firing, it’s easy to see why the final weekend of European pool action creates great excitement and tension-packed matches.

And this season’s competition has seen combined Champions Cup and Challenge Cup attendances on target to pass one million over this weekend.

 

SCARLETS

A victory for the Scarlets against Toulon would see them make it through to the knockout stages of the coveted competition for the first time in over a decade and head coach Wayne Pivac has rewarded the side that secured such an emphatic victory over Bath last weekend by naming an unchanged XV.

With over 13,500 tickets sold already Saturday’s game will be the region’s biggest in European history at Parc y Scarlets, the record currently stands at 12,392 against Leicester Tigers back in January 2011.

In the only change to the replacements bench the region’s supporters will be delighted to see British & Irish Lion Leigh Halfpenny return to fitness.

Looking ahead to the game head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We know what to expect from Toulon, we’ve come up against each other on numerous occasions in the last few years. We need to make sure that we’re defensively on our game.

“There was only one point separating the teams in the first round of the competition this year and we gifted them some points early on from our errors. To fight back and get ourselves into a position to possibly win the game out there was very pleasing.

“I think it’s going to be another one of those games. It’s the same for both teams. Whoever gets the win is through. It’s a chance for both of us. We’re not through yet but you don’t want to be the team looking at the mathematical equation. It’s all set up for a great evening.”

Scarlets side to take on RC Toulon at Parc y Scarlets, Saturday 20th January, kick-off 5.30pm; 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens ©, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements; Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Aled Davies, Steff Hughes, Leigh Halfpenny

OSPREYS

The Ospreys are in France for their round 6 showdown against the French champions, and Head Coach Steve Tandy has told his players this is a huge opportunity to show what the team is about on the big stage.

Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: “The European Cup provides any team with a real challenge and when you kick off the campaign all you can aim for is to be still involved in Round 6 and that’s where we are at.

“We’ve seen plenty of character and spirit throughout the pool stage but it’s been about more than just that, we’ve played with adventure, scored some great tries, and really taken the game to some very good teams. Our reward is going to Clermont with our destiny in our own hands. We know that we’ve got a real tough challenge in front of us but we’ve got to enjoy the experience.

“This is what Champions Cup rugby is all about. We’ve enjoyed the competition and we want to keep that going. Prep has been good this week, the attitude is spot on, now we need everyone to be on the money on Saturday. We are playing the French champions, regular Champions Cup finalists and they need the right result for qualification themselves. It’s going to be a battle but there’ll be a fantastic atmosphere and we have to be up for it from the first whistle.”

The Ospreys team to play Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday 20th January 2018, 4.15pm KO (Local), is as follows: 15 Dan Evans; 14 Hanno Dirksen; 13 Ashley Beck; 12 Owen Watkin; 11 Jeff Hassler; 10 Dan Biggar; 9 Rhys Webb; 1 Nicky Smith; 2 Scott Baldwin; 3 Dmitri Arhip; 4 Bradley Davies; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt); 6 Olly Cracknell; 7 Justin Tipuric; 8 Rob McCusker

Replacements: 16 Scott Otten; 17 Gareth Thomas; 18 Ma’afu Fia; 19 Adam Beard; 20 Will Jones; 21 Tom Habberfield; 22 Sam Davies; 23 Kieron Fonotia

CARDIFF BLUES

Cardiff Blues have made six changes as they aim to complete a European Challenge Cup double over Lyon on Saturday (5pm GMT).

They have already qualified for a quarter-final place following last week’s victory over Toulouse but hope to make it back-to-back victories over French opposition. With qualification already secured and hopes of a home tie slim, Danny Wilson has taken the opportunity to rest some key personnel while giving others valuable game-time.

Three of the changes come in the back-line with Rey Lee-Lo returning to replace the injured Willis Halaholo. Blaine Scully makes his comeback from injury and Lloyd Williams gets the nod at scrum-half.

Up front Dillon Lewis starts at tight-head prop, Damian Welch comes in for George Earle, who is unavailable and Macauley Cook starts on the blindside with the ever versatile Josh Navidi moving to number eight. Wilson was delighted to secure a knockout place with a game to spare but he insists Cardiff Blues are determined to maintain momentum with another notable win.

Wilson said: “To come out of that group, winning it with a game to spare, is a great achievement.

“We’ve done what we can do in qualifying for the quarter finals. We can’t influence whether we get a home tie and the odds are very highly stacked against us to get that.

“But ultimately we’re going to Lyon to win. We certainly don’t want to finish with a loss in this group, which we’ve performed very well in.

“As a group, we know how important momentum is and I’m confident we’ll pick a team who are confident and will approach the game with the relevant manner to get an away win.

“We beat Lyon at home, we beat Toulouse home and away and if we can get another French scalp it will be a big achievement. The important thing for us is to keep rolling with the momentum.”

Cardiff Blues have also been boosted by the timely return to fitness of Rhun Williams, who is named among the replacements following a pectoral injury.

Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe; Alex Cuthbert, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Matthew Rees, Dillon Lewis, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Macauley Cook, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi.

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, James Down, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Steve Shingler, Rhun Williams.

DRAGONS

Head Coach Bernard Jackman has made four personnel changes to the starting XV and one positional change to the back row for the Men of Gwent.

Asked about his approach to the game, the Dragons Head Coach said:“We can’t control other results but let’s just go for the win,” said Jackman at the supporter’s Q&A at Rodney Parade last night.

There are four changes to the Dragons starting lineup, with Gavin Henson back in at fly-half, but James Benjamin one of three try scorers last weekend drops to the bench.

“Gavin has done a lot of work on his tackling technique, he’s got his head down and worked hard so we look forward to seeing him control things. If we win by more than 9 points we have a chance and we need to get a bonus point; then they shouldn’t get one. There’s some low scoring pools, so we have a chance (to progress).

“I’ve been involved in games before in round six of Europe when things take a sudden change in the last minute and you can be lucky or unlucky so hopefully we’ll benefit.”

Dragons team to face Bordeaux-Begles at Rodney Parade, Saturday 20th January kick off 1500: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius; 1 Sam Hobbs, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Rynard Landman, 5 Cory Hill ©, 6 James Sheekey, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 8 Robson Blake.

Replacements; Liam Belcher, Thomas Davies, Gerard Ellis, Joe Davies, James Benjamin, Dan Babos, Dorian Jones, Pat Howard.