Oyonnax opens their Champions Cup campaign against Ulster on Saturday evening: 13:00 kick-off
Hosts are without head coach Oliver Azam after sacking
Ulster makes seven changes for trip to French Alps
Prop Kyle McCall to earn first European Cap for Ulster
Oyonnax will be hoping for their first ever victory in the European Champions Cup when they face Ulster at the Stade Charles-Mathon this afternoon.
The home side will break new ground when they become the 62nd club to compete in the European Rugby Champions Cup. However, the newcomers from the French Alps will do so without head coach Oliver Azam, who was let go from his position on Thursday following six defeats in eight Top 14 games.
A number of their players boast European knockout experience, including former Northampton Saints prop Soane Tonga’uiha, ex-Harlequins lock George Robson and Welsh out-half Nicky Robinson, who previously played for Cardiff Blues.
Former All Black Piri Weepu will hope to have an impact off the bench along with the likes of Wannenburg, Tonga’uiha and Robinson, who have also been held in reserve.
Powerful former Leinster centre Sheridan will be eager to impress against Irish opposition as will Tongan winger Fetu’u Vainikolo, who had a productive two-year spell at Connacht.
Ulster director of rugby Les Kiss has made seven changes to his team for the first European Champions Cup game of the season, away to Oyonnax on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland wingers Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy return to the side for the clash at Stade Charles-Mathon. They will feature in the back-three alongside full-back Peter Nelson, who makes his Champions Cup debut at full-back.
Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson will start together at half-back for the first time this season, while Luke Marshall and Darren Cave will line out together in the centre. Stuart McCloskey, the province’s October Player of the Month, is rested after seven consecutive starts.
In reality, it should be a walk in the park for Ulster, who have managed to win four out of their seven games in the Guinness Pro 12 this season. They should have too much quality for their French counterparts, and should win this one by at least 14.
Oyonnax: Florian Denos (capt); Silvere Tian, Vincent Martin, Eamonn Sheridan, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Regis Lespinas, Fabien Cibray; Laurent Delboulbès, Jody Jenneker, Marc Clerc, George Robson, Fabrice Metz, Valentin Ursache, Olivier Missoup, Viliami Maafu.
Replacements: Jeremie Maurouard, Soane Tonga’uiha, Antoine Guillamon, Leon Power, Pierrick Gunther, Pedrie Wannenburg, Piri Weepu, Nicky Robinson.
Ulster: Peter Nelson; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Kyle McCall, Rory Best (capt), Ricky Lutton, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Callum Black, Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst, Lewis Stevenson, Sean Reidy, Dave Shanahan, Ian Humphreys, Louis Ludik.
Date: 14th November 2015
Venue: Stade Charles-Mathon