Mark McCall says Saracens must be ‘united’ after appealing a hefty points deduction for breaching salary cap rules

An understrength Saracens begin their Champions Cup defence away to Racing 92 on Sunday while Northampton Saints host Lyon.

Mark McCall looks to have decided to focus on Premiership survival as Sarries wait on the outcome of their appeal against a 35-point deduction for breaching salary cap rules, but they have still named a side capable of winning at La Defense Arena.

Northampton will attempt to continue their strong start to the season against Lyon while Connacht are also in action against a powerful Montpellier side.

Connacht vs Montpellier, Sportsground (1pm)

Ultan Dillane returns to ease Connacht’s second-row injury crisis while Bundee Aki is restored to the western province’s midfield alongside Kyle Godwin.

World Cup winner Aaron Cruden, who is returning to the Chiefs for the 2020 Super Rugby season, starts at fly-half for Montpellier.

Key match-up: Ultan Dillane vs Nico Janse van Rensburg

Connacht’s long injury list at lock was exposed by Leinster last weekend so Dillane’s return is timely as they prepare to face a powerful Montpellier pack.

Van Rensburg partners fellow South African Paul Willemse in the second row and impressed in last weekend’s draw away to Toulon, stealing two lineouts and making 13 tackles.

Match fact

Connacht have won their opening game in each of their last five European campaigns. Four of those were against French opposition.

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade; 1 Denis Buckley, 2 Tom McCartney, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 4 Cillian Gallagher, 5 Ultan Dillane, 6 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jarrad Butler (c), 8 Paul Boyle.

Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Tom Daly, 23 John Porch.

Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Gabriel N’gandebe, 13 Arthur incent, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Yan Reilhac, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Benoit Paillaugue (c); 1 Mikheil Nariashili, 2 Youri Delhommel, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse, 6 Kelian Galletier, 7 Yacouba Camara, 8 Caleb Timu.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck Du Plessis, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Jannie Du Plessis, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Julien Bardy, 22 Henry Immelman, 23 Jacques Du Plessis.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

Northampton Saints vs Lyon, Franklin’s Gardens (1pm)

Dan Biggar, Cobus Reinach, Piers Francis, Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam make their first starts for Northampton since returning from the World Cup.

Former Sale and Bath forward Carl Fearns starts at No 8 for Lyon.

Key match-up: Taqele Naiyaravoro vs Josua Tuisova

While Tuisova was tearing teams apart at the World Cup, many were questioning why Naiyaravoro wasn’t even there.

The Northampton wing has made a fantastic start to the season while Tuisova scored a try and set up two more on his Lyon debut last weekend.

Match fact

Lyon lost twice to Saracens in their debut Champions Cup season but have won five of their eight matches against Premiership teams in the Challenge Cup.

Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach; 1 Alex Waller (c), 2 Mikey Haywood, 3 Ehren Painter, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 8 Teimana Harrison.

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Ahsee Tuala.

Lyon: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Pato Fernandez, 9 Jonathan Pelissie (c); 1 Raphael Chaume, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 3 Clement Ric, 4 Killian Geraci, 5 Loann Goujon, 6 Liam Gill, 7 Patrick Sobela, 8 Carl Fearns.

Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Hamza Kaabèche, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Hendrik Roodt, 20 Virgile Bruni, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Jonathan Wisniewski, 23 Thibaut Regard.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland).

Racing 92 vs Saracens, La Defense Arena (3.15pm GMT)

The defending champions head to the French capital without eight of the nine players who featured in the World Cup final, with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, the Vunipola brothers and Vincent Koch all absent.

Finn Russell and Maxime Machenaud form an international half-back pairing for Racing while Teddy Thomas continues on the wing after scoring a hat-trick against Stade Francais last weekend.

Key match-up: Finn Russell vs Manu Vunipola

Vunipola has impressed in Farrell’s absence but he faces a stern test under the roof at La Defense Arena, where his opposite number Russell will look to play at a high tempo and release his box-office backline.

Match fact

Saracens have won their last five Champions Cup matches against Racing 92, including the 2016 final.

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (c), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Maxime Machenaud; 1 Eddy Ben Arous, 2 Camille Chat, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Boris Palu, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 8 Antonie Claassen.

Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Yoan Tanga, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Simon Zebo.

Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Roti Segun, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Rhys Carre, 2 Jack Singleton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Will Skelton, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Jackson Wray (c).

Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Sam Crean, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Damian Willemse, 23 Duncan Taylor.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).

Sourse: skysports.com

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