Match preview: Lyon v Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 21st January 2012 – 3.00pm (French time)

Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 #6

The Falcons make a first visit to the Matmut Stadium to conclude this season’s adventures in the Amlin Challenge Cup pool stages. No, not Turkey, but Lyon, in Rhône-Alpes province of France.

Paul Moriarty will still be in charge despite Gary Gold arriving in the North East this week, and this game sees us still in with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, but since we need to get three points more than Toulon do in Padova, it is unlikely we’ll reach the out eight.

Toulon have just chucked Joe Van Niekerk into their squad to replace Leonardo Senatore – different world to the one we spend our cash in.

Fitzy is optimistic though.

Lyon have no chance of qualifying, having only won two matches so far in the tournament so far, home and away to Petrarca.

They are also bottom of the Top 14 table with only three wins from their 14 games so far, though only three points behind Biarritz and Bayonne and four below Brive with a game in hand on those sides.

Lyon’s previous home game was a 6-6 draw with Clermont Auvergne at the end of December, and then they lost 51-10 at Toulouse on their first outing of 2012.

On Sunday evening they were beaten 29-10 at Toulon last weekend.

Lyon have a number of recognisable names in their squad. There are former Sale players Lee Thomas and Sisa Koyamaibole, a Fiji and Pacific Islands international. Mark Van GIsbergen and James Bailey also have Premiership experience with Wasps and Gloucester respectively, while Argentinian number 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón’s time at London Irish was probably most famous to fans of other clubs for this blooper.

Geordie interest is provided by former Northampton lock Christian Short, but Lyon’s highest-profile star is perhaps South African scrum-half Ricky Januarie, who has 47 caps for the Springboks.

Although this is the Falcons’ first trip to Lyon it is not our first visit to Rhône-Alpes. That came in October 2002, in a 12-19 win at Grenoble’s Stade Lesdiguieres in the first round first leg of this tournament. Jonny Wilkinson kicked four penalties that day, as well as converting Marius Hurter’s try, and we finished the job a week later when a Michael Stephenson hat-trick secured us a 52-29 aggregate victory.

Some people (like myself) would say things were better in the three seasons when the Challenge Cup was knock-out all the way, although I suppose the bean-counters prefer three guaranteed home games rather than two.

The Falcons have named an intriguing lineup for the game tomorrow, with Jimmy Gopperth at full-back and Jordi Pasqualin on the wing due to mounting injuries in the backs, Tom Catterick being the latest to drop along with Jeremy Manning and Luke Fielden, who went off against Padova. There are three hookers, including potential debutant George McGuigan, and three props on the bench alongside just one back, Will Chudley:

Starting XV: Gopperth ©, Pasqualin, Eves, Fitzpatrick, Shortland, Hodgson, Pilgrim, Wells, M Mayhew, Hall, Hogg, Swinson, R Mayhew, Pennycook, Wilson.

Replacements: Graham, Fearn, Murray, Vickers, Welch, McGuigan, Shiells, Chudley.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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