Carter and Nonu set to make European Cup debuts

Dan Carter practices for Racing 92

Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu are set to make their European Rugby Champions Cup debut’s this weekend.

Carter played in the Heineken Cup for Perpignan before the 2011 Rugby World Cup but on Saturday he is expected to make his European Champions Cup and Racing 92 debut.

The two time world cup winning flyhalf is expected to be named in the Racing team to play Northampton in Paris.

Meanwhile Nonu should also make his European Champions Cup debut in a Toulon team that like Toulouse badly need to win.

The All Black superstar fly-half Carter, who retired from international rugby after winning the World Cup in England at the start of November, was named in the Racing match-day squad two weeks after arriving in France.

His club are currently second in Pool 2 after winning their opener and can move ahead of first-placed Northampton with a win on Saturday. The English side have two wins under their belt but have no bonus points.

The 33-year-old Carter says that he is ready to handle the pressure that comes with playing for such a high-profile team as Racing.

“There’s always going to be pressure, that’s part of the game that I love,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any more pressure playing here after what’s happened in my career than before most Test matches.”

Also making his debut in the competition will be another star member of the All Blacks World Cup winning side Ma’a Nonu who will play for defending champions Toulon at home to Leinster.

The Cote d’Azur side were shocked last week in a 32-6 thumping at Wasps and they are currently bottom of Pool 5, nine points adrift of the London side who have played twice.

A win is imperative in what is arguably the toughest of the five pools if Toulon are to have a realistic hope of winning the competition for an unprecedented fourth straight year.

Toulouse, meanwhile, travel to Belfast for a tough matchup against Ulster on Friday evening, trailing Saracens by five points in Pool 1.

“It would be a real exploit to go there and win,” said flanker Gregory Lamboley.

“What worries us the most is the enthusiasm they bring to the game when they are playing at home. They are a side that are capable of keeping up a high intensity game for the whole 80 minutes. A bit like the Ireland national side.”

Toulouse coach Ugo Mola who took over this season in place of veteran Guy Noves, who is now the head coach of the French national team, agreed that the Ulster game was crucial to his side’s chances of reaching the knock-out stages.

“We still have the same ambitions, but if you look at the last three years it has been difficult for Toulouse to reach the final stages of the competition,” he said.

Saracens, meanwhile, can bolster their position at the head of the pool with an away fixture at struggling Oyonnax on Sunday.

In a closely contested Pool 2 Ospreys will be favourite at home to Bordeaux, while Exeter host Clermont with both teams one point adrift of the Welsh side who top the group.

In-form Clermont winger said that he was expecting a tough physical battle at Exeter.

“They are a good side and have been improving steadily over the last four years. It’s a town that loves its rugby and they get good crowds.”

In Pool 4 Leicester have a maximum 10 points from two games, but face a daunting task away to Munster who have five points from one game.

Top 14 champions Stade Francais meanwhile will travel to Italy to take on Treviso knowing that a bonus-point win is essential if they are to stay in the running.

Fixtures this weekend in the European Champions Rugby Cup:

Friday

(Pool 1) – Ulster v Toulouse

Saturday

(Pool 3) – Glasgow v Scarlets

(Pool 3) – Racing92 v Northampton

(Pool 4) – Treviso v Stade Francais

(Pool 2) – Exeter v Clermont

(Pool 2) – Ospreys v Bordeaux

(Pool 4) – Munster v Leicester

Sunday

(Pool 1) – Oyonnaz v Saracens

(Pool 5) – Toulon v Leinster

(Pool 5) – Wasps v Bath

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