Amlin Challenge Cup: Thursday preview

Last Updated: 12/12/13 7:24pm

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Worcester will give youth a chance in Thursday's Amlin Challenge Cup clash against Biarritz, while Newport Gwent Dragons are looking to stay masters of their own destiny.

The Warriors' hopes of progressing in the competition are already effectively over, prompting director of rugby Dean Ryan to utilise his up-and-coming talent.

Ryan has made 10 changes to the side that lost the same fixture 19-15 at Sixways last week, leaving the Warriors at the foot of Sale-led Pool One after three matches.

Wing Josh Drauniniu, prop Jeremy Becasseau, full-back Ben Howard and fly-half Max Stelling are among those to start in the developmental line-up.

"Because we have quite a small squad and some guys are under pressure to play every week, this is a chance to give them a rest."
Dean Ryan

"I want to provide some opportunities for players to push for selection," Ryan said. "People have an opportunity to put their hands up for a Premiership place.

"Because we have quite a small squad and some guys are under pressure to play every week, this is a chance to give them a rest.

"We are starting to see the group evolve and after Christmas our selection will be a bit more consistent. This is a big window for some people to join that group."

Struggling Worcester led 12-0 against Biarritz only to fall away and are still searching for their first win of the season in any competition.

Biarritz welcome back Benoit Baby at outside centre and Imanol Harinordoquy at number eight as they look to make it two wins in a row against the Warriors. Veteran internationals Dimitri Yachvili and Damien Traille are among the replacements.

Maintain pressure

Newport Gwent Dragons travel to Bordeaux-Begles on Thursday seeking to maintain pressure on Pool Two leaders Bath. Victory would keep the Welsh region's destiny in their own hands.

Rhys Thomas returns to Dragons duty after three months out. The hooker will be alongside nine other changes that have been made to the squad from last weekend's bonus point win over Bordeaux at Rodney Parade.

"We were happy with Friday's outcome and performance," said director of rugby Lyn Jones. "However, we fully understand that back-to-back matches are challenging and we are under no illusions.

"Our players are creating habits and they are good habits. We are attempting to push our attacking game forward a step... so I believe that we are moving in the right direction."

Jones has made one change in the back five with Ross Wardle stepping in on the wing. He is joined in the back three by full-back Daniel Evans and winger Matthew Pewtner. The centre pairing remains the same with Pat Leach and Ashley Smith. Jason Tovey remains as fly-half and Wayne keeps his position at scrum-half.

Owen Evans takes his place at loosehead prop in the starting XV as Hugh Gustafson moves across to the bench. Young gun Sam Parry keeps his place as hooker and the Argentine tighthead prop Francisco Chaparro also bolsters the forwards.

Skipper Andrew Coombs retains his place in the second-row alongside Rob Sidoli, who was rested last week. The back row remains the same with Lewis Evans as blindside flanker, Nic Cudd openside flanker and Toby Faletau at number eight.

Six changes have been made on the replacements bench with Thomas Rhys Thomas, Hugh Gustafson, Matthew Screech, Netani Talei, Steffan Jones and Will Harries. Both Nathan Buck and Richie Rees keep their places on the bench.

Thursday's other matches see Brive take on Bucaresti in Pool three on home soil while Cavalieri Prato travel to Luistanos in Pool Five.

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