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Match Preview: Montpellier Hérault (H)



Fixture: London Irish vs Montpellier Hérault

Competition: Heineken Champions Cup, Pool B Round 1

Date: 9th December 2022

Kick-off: 8pm

Stadium: Gtech Community Stadium

Capacity: 17,250


The long-awaited return to Heineken Champions Cup is almost over for London Irish, who open up the 2022/23 competition this Friday at home against Top 14 champions, Montpellier Hérault.

Montpellier had a three-match win streak end against Clermont Auvergne last week and currently sit fifth in this year of the Top 14 after six wins and six losses, new out-half Louis Carbonel aiding in their top six standing with the third-highest points in the league (130).

In the first ever competitive meeting between the Clubs, Philippe Saint-André’s side travel to west London to begin their 11th campaign in Europe’s top knockout competition, their seventh consecutive Champions Cup berth.

They achieved qualification after finishing second in the French top tier last year, going on to win their first league title with play-off victories over Union Bordeaux Bègles and Castres Olympique.

In their continental pursuit of silverware, Les Cistes emerged from their pool last term with wins over Leinster Rugby and Exeter Chiefs, then conquering Harlequins by one point on an aggregate score before falling short to eventual champions, La Rochelle, in the quarter-finals.

Crashing out of the 2020/21 pool stages led to the Hérault-based Club to their second Challenge Cup lift, dropping down to the competition to beat Premiership side Leicester Tigers in the final.

Irish reached the last eight of the EPCR Challenge Cup last year; with the two most profitable game periods between 11 and 20 minutes and the last 10 minutes of 2021/22 Challenge Cup matches, scoring a competition-high five and nine tries respectively as well as having the most try-scoring possessions from lineouts (16).

The Exiles’ last outing in the Heineken Champions Cup competition came back in the 2011/12 season, beating Racing 92 34-14 away but not qualifying from a pool that also contained Cardiff and Edinburgh Rugby.

Nemani Nadolo remains the French Club’s top try scorer in the tournament down through the years with 11, recently departed Benoit Paillaugue the highest points scorer (169) and second-most appearance maker (36).

The boss- Philippe Saint-André:

Saint-André joined the Club back in 2020 to succeed Vern Cotter as Director of Rugby at Les Cistes, having previously assumed the helm at Premiership sides Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks.

He won Sharks’ first league title in 2006, going on to manage French giants Toulon to an EPCR Challenge Cup final appearance in 2010.

The 55-year-old would eventually earn his place as the leader of the French national team, taking the national side to Giuseppe Garibaldi and Trophée des Bicentenaires honours in his four years in Paris.

After Coach Xavier Garbajosa left in early 2021, Saint-André took a more hands-on approach and has since guided Montpellier to their second Challenge Cup and first Top 14 trophy.

One to watch- Zach Mercer:

The Leeds-born 25-year-old moved to Scotland as a child, first getting his taste of rugby with Old Brodleians near Halifax before being integrated into the Glasgow Warriors Academy north of the border.

Joining Bath Rugby in 2015, he spent five years with the Club and earned two caps for England, after leading the under-20s side ten times in his 17 age-grade outings for his country.

The 2017 World Rugby Junior Player of the Year nominee joined Montpellier ahead of the 2021/22 season, making a sizeable impact on the team’s fortunes as the Club won their first league title.

Scoring five tries in domestic and European competition for the French side last year and two this year, the physical prowess of the Englishman will soon be on display in the Premiership after confirming that he is set to join Gloucester Rugby next year.

Pre-match patter:

Speaking at the recent EPCR Season Launch, Montpellier Hérault centre Arthur Vincent outlined his Club’s standing coming into this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.

“We arrive with a lot of humility,” Vincent said.

“We are still small in this competition, the [Heineken] Champions Cup goes faster, hits harder.

“As soon as a match is lost, qualification becomes complicated.

“It’s a very high level in all sectors, close to an international Test.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby





Sale Sharks have agreed a deal to sign Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu from French Top14 side Toulon. 

The explosive centre, who starred for his country during the recent World Cup, has signed a one-year contract with an option for a further year. 

He will join up with Alex Sanderson’s Sharks squad ahead of the start of the 2024/25 Gallagher Premiership season. 

Waisea, 33, said: “I’ve watched the Premiership for a long time and it’s always been in the back of my mind that I would love to play there one day and experience rugby in England. 

“Now that opportunity has arrived and I’m really, really happy and grateful. I’m so excited to get over there and join the boys and see how I can contribute to the team. 

“I have spoken to Telusa Veainu and he only has positive things to say about the club and about Manchester. 

“I’m looking forward to playing with some of the guys I’ve played against, like Tom Curry and George Ford. But I also know there are a lot of really talented young players in the Sale Sharks squad and I’m excited to share my experience and help them develop as much as I can.  

“I told Alex that it’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years of my career and it’s something I’m passionate about.” 

Nayacalevu, who stands at 6’4” and weighs in at 16st 7lb, spent ten years at Top14 side Stade Français before making the switch to Toulon in 2022.  

He has won 34 caps for Fiji, slotting in at both centre and on the wing, and captained his country at last year’s World Cup, where the Pacific Islanders made the quarter-finals, losing 30-24 to England in Marseille. 

He also famously scored for Fiji in their memorable pre-World Cup win against England at Twickenham. 

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Falcons star to join Saracens



Phil Brantingham to join Saracens

Tuesday 05 March 2024 Written by: Tom Grisedale

Prop-forward Phil Brantingham will leave Newcastle Falcons in the summer to join Saracens.

The 22-year-old has played 25 games for his home town club, and leaves with the thanks and best wishes of everyone at the Falcons.

Chairman of rugby Matt Thompson said: “Phil has done well for us and we made him a good offer to stay here.

“We respect his decision and wish him all the best for his move in the summer, but between now and then he will be fully committed to finishing the season strongly for Newcastle Falcons.”

Source – Newcastle Falcons Rugby

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Sale Sharks can confirm that forward Cobus Wiese will leave the club at the end of the season to return to South Africa. 

The 26-year-old lock has played almost 80 games for the club and scored five tries since joining from the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2020/21 season. 

He played a key role last year as Sale reached the Premiership final, and this season he has featured a further 13 times for Alex Sanderson’s side. 

Alex said: “Cobus will be missed by all of us on so many levels. He’s the most polite and courteous of people off the field, but the most wildly excitable man on the field, and on a night out. 

“To say Cobus wears his heart on his sleeve is to do him a disservice with regards to his emotional commitment for which his body has paid the price on occasion.  

“He leads by example and has earnt the respect and adoration of the group both on a professional and a personal level. We wish him every success and happiness with his move back home.” 

Everyone at Sale Sharks would like to thank Cobus for his contribution to the club and the team during his time here and we wish him all the very best for the future.  

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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