Much-Changed Scarlets to Battle Past Toulon

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The European Champions Cup continues this weekend, with Friday's programme ready to whet the appetite for what promises to be another fascinating round of fixtures.

Scarlets Leigh Halfpenny runs with the ball

First up at 17:30, the Scarlets welcome Toulon to a wet and windy Parc y Scarlets, before at 20:00, Montpellier make the trip to Coventry.

Scarlets Can Tame Toulon

Both the Scarlets and Toulon made winning starts to this season’s competition and will know a repeat success will only boost their hopes of qualification from Pool A.

The hosts have made wholesale changes following last Saturday’s 23-19 win at Bath, making 10 in total with British & Irish Lions’ centre Jonathan Davies coming into the midfield to partner captain Steff Hughes. Up front, Samson Lee and Jake Ball miss out due to HIA return-to-play protocols but even without those two, 6/5 on a home win is tempting.

Three-time winners Toulon, in contrast, will be without World Cup-winning lock Eben Etzebeth after the South African sustained an injury in their 26-14 win over Sale Sharks.

Conditions to Play Their Part

As referenced in the introduction, the conditions are unlikely to help the visitors, with a weather warning issued for Llanelli on Friday. Strong winds and heavy rain could lead to a messy game, but that’s not to say the Patrice Collazo’s side won’t front up.

Etzebeth’s replacement Romain Taofifenua brings plenty of grunt to a pack which also features the brilliant Charles Ollivon on the flank.

Meanwhile, the battle between Davies and Ma’a Nonu, both of whom are likely to be tasked with trucking it up through the middle, will be vital.

While the old cliche of French teams not travelling well doesn’t hold the same water it did in the past, the difficulty presented by the conditions means experience could count and the 2/1 for the home win by 1-12 points is worth considering.

Montpellier Unlikely to Sting Wasps

Later in the evening, Wasps look set for a routine win over Montpellier after contrasting opening weekends. Lee Blackett’s side made no mistake in their 24-8 bonus-point win over the Dragons but it was much tougher for Les Cistes who were defeated 35-14 at home to Leinster, with their sole try coming after 77 minutes.

Montpellier have not won an away game in this competition since December 2017 but will be aware that Wasps lost their last outing at the Ricoh Arena, going down 27-17 to Newcastle.

That being said, they previously beat last season’s Challenge Cup winners Bristol 23-20 and Wasps’ convincing triumph at Rodney Parade makes it easy to understand why they are priced at 5/18.

Changes Shouldn’t Derail Hosts

The busy fixture list has persuaded Blackett to rest his international quartet of Dan Robson, Will Rowlands, Jack Willis and Joe Launchbury.

In contrast, Montpellier can demonstrate their front-row depth with Bismarck du Plessis starting ahead of Guilhem Guirado, but France winger Vincent Rattez is not included in the 23.

A look at the visiting pack suggests they’ll try and keep the game up front but Wasps have class throughout their back-line and unlike in Wales, the conditions are not expected to affect the flow of the game.

The two-time winners are usually pretty formidable at the Ricoh and with Montpellier’s away day woes, Wasps’ 1/1 to beat the -7.5 handicap seems doable, while a second straight European win by 16-20 points holds value at 6/1.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

The first choice in any quiz team, Jack is your man for stats, facts and information across a wide range of different sports. As well as a vast knowledge of football, he specialises in cycling, rugby and tennis amongst a number of other sports.

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