Preview: Harlequins v Cardiff Blues

Date published: January 15 2016

Harlequins have made three changes to the side that beat Saracens last week as they prepare to host Cardiff Blues in the Challenge Cup.

In front of an unchanged backline, Will Collier returns to the starting line-up, with George Merrick selected in the second-row.

Jack Clifford, who was named in the England squad with Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Marland Yarde and Mike Brown this week, starts at openside as Nick Easter returns to number eight. 

Among the replacements, Mat Luamanu will look to make his first European appearance for the Club having recovered from an injury sustained in October.

Meanwhile, fly-half Gareth Anscombe is set for his playing return for Cardiff Blues after being named in the squad for the Twickenham Stoop clash.

Anscombe has been out of action since injuring his ankle in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against South Africa in October.

But the 24-year-old is now fully recovered and takes his place amongst the replacements for the big clash in London as Cardiff Blues come up against an undefeated Quins team who top the pool.

Head Coach Danny Wilson knows victory is vital in England and makes just two changes to the starting line-up that defeated Scarlets in the region's last competitive game.

Prop Sam Hobbs comes into the front-row, with Gethin Jenkins ruled out of the game with a neck injury as Lloyd Williams takes on the captaincy.

The other change is a call-up for versatile forward Macauley Cook into the second-row to partner James Down.

There is also a welcome return for fit-again back row Ellis Jenkins who is named among the replacements for the European clash and who will make his 50th appearance for the region if he comes off the bench in the English capital.

Form: Harlequins have won five games from five attempts against Welsh opposition, scoring 199 points in the process. Harlequins have won 13 of their last 15 matches in the Challenge Cup and are undefeated so far in 2015/16 (four matches). Cardiff Blues have won five of their last eight away matches in the Challenge Cup, including two wins from three against teams from England. Cardiff have scored exactly 500 points in 14 matches in the Challenge Cup, 140 of which have been against English teams.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Charlie Walker.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Tom Davies, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Gavin Evans.

Date: Sunday, January 17
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)