The best that international rugby has to offer will clash on Saturday, when a host of Heineken Champions Cup stars face off in a dazzling opening to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
In what is arguably the biggest match of the pool stages, New Zealand take on South Africa, who will look towards several European-based players as they try to beat the defending champions.
They include Sale Sharks scrum-half Faf de Klerk, Montpellier centre Francois Steyn, Gloucester Rugby lock Franco Mostert and Toulouse utility back Cheslin Kolbe, who scored two tries last season in the French side’s run to the last four of the Heineken Champions Cup.
Earlier on Saturday, France will kick off their Pool C campaign against Argentina, with head coach Jacques Brunel opting for four players from ASM Clermont Auvergne’s Challenge Cup-winning side, including wing Damian Penaud, who notched five tries in their successful campaign.
Brunel has named a Toulouse half-back partnership in scrum-half Antoine Dupont – who netted five tries in the Heineken Champions Cup last season – and fly-half Romain Ntamack, who played in all eight of his side’s European matches in 2018/19.
The opening match on Saturday also contains several players who will feature in the Heineken Champions Cup this season as Australia take on Fiji in what could be a pivotal Pool D encounter.
Edinburgh Rugby No.8 Viliame Mata – who helped his side to the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup last season – will start for Fiji alongside the likes of 2018 EPCR European Player of the Year Leone Nakarawa, La Rochelle centre Levani Botia and Lyon wing Josua Tuisova.
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