Preview: Gloucester v Harlequins

Date published: March 3 2017

Billy Burns is back at fly-half as Gloucester make four changes to their starting line-up with Harlequins the visitors to Kingsholm in the Premiership on Saturday.

Burns’ return is the only tweak to the backline as the Cherry and Whites make four changes to the starting line-up from the XV that started at Wasps last Sunday.

There are two new faces in the front row as Yann Thomas and John Afoa come in for Josh Hohneck and Paul Doran-Jones respectively, while Mariano Galarza starts in place of Tom Savage.

“If both sides have aspirations of a top six finish, as we both do, then it’s a massively important game. We’re certainly looking at it in that light, it’s an absolute must win for us,” said head coach Laurie Fisher.

“We’re at Kingsholm which is fantastic. We’re at home, with the benefits that come with that. Hopefully if we turn up and play well, we get everybody on our side. It’s a hugely important game with two down weeks coming up so we have to get out there, empty the tank and give it everything.

“We know that we’ve got to be on the edge, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes it’s easier at home when you know that you’ve 14,000 or 15,000 people on your side. If you give them something to cheer about, there’s a wave you can really ride home.

“But we’ve got to generate that, through our performance, through our passion, through our enthusiasm, through our skills, through our execution. If we provide that part of the deal, then we’ll have a lot of people there who will help us through the 80 minutes.”

Meanwhile, there are five Harlequins changes to the side that played Leicester Tigers last week. Ross Chisholm starts at full-back combining with Tim Visser, who returns from Scotland duty, and Marland Yarde in the back three.

Chisholm is named in place of Aaron Morris who received a three-week suspension on Wednesday. Tim Swiel replaces Nick Evans who sustained a shoulder injury last week. The fly-half is expected to be out for three weeks.

In the forwards, Joe Gray is named at hooker and starts alongside Kyle Sinckler, who has also returned from international duty this week.

Among the replacements first year Academy member James Lang is named.

Speaking ahead of the match, Harlequins Director of Rugby John Kingston said: “This is the final Premiership match of this concentrated period during the Six Nations. It is important that we come away with a positive result to set us up for the final five league matches as we push for Champions Cup qualification.”

Form: Gloucester’s last four fixtures in Premiership Rugby have all gone the way of the home side on the day, whilst Gloucester’s solitary defeat at Kingsholm in any tournament since early October was by a single point to Northampton Saints in round 12 of Premiership Rugby. Harlequins have lost their last two Premiership Rugby matches, against Bath and Leicester, but have not lost three in a row since this time last year. The Londoners have won just once on the road in Premiership Rugby this season: 42-8 at Bristol in round 14. Harlequins have lost just one of their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures with Gloucester: 6-28 in this equivalent fixture at Kingsholm in round 12 last season. Harlequins have won only once at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby since 1999: 22-15 in November 2014.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Callum Braley, 22 James Hook, 23 Henry Trinder

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Matt Hopper, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward (c), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Stan South, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones, 22 James Lang, 23 Alofa Alofa

Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal, Matthew O’Grady
TMO: Trevor Fisher