Preview: Harlequins v Exeter

Date published: October 28 2011

Quins will be covered in pink as the London team join forces with Breast Cancer Care for Ladies Day in their clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Quins will be covered in pink as the London team join forces with Breast Cancer Care for Ladies Day in their Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Following two hard-fought wins in the LV= Cup, Quins are this week back at the Stoop in the Premiership and welcome back some familiar faces.

Mike Brown returns at full-back, alongside Sam Smith and Seb Stegmann in the back-three. The team also welcome back Nick Evans and Karl Dickson at half-back, with Jordan Turner Hall and George Lowe returning in the centre.

Chris Brooker is at hooker, in between Joe Marler and James Johnston at tight head, in the front-row. George Robson, who re-signed with Harlequins on Thursday and will be making his 100th competitive appearance for the club tomorrow, and Ollie Kohn will look to continue early season form in the engine room. Nick Easter returns at number eight, from the World Cup, to play alongside captain Chris Robshaw, and the impressive Luke Wallace.

The bench sees real depth with Joe Gray, Tim Fairbrother and Kyle Sinckler covering the front-row. Tomas Vallejos and Maurie Fa'asavalu will look to make their first league appearances, impacting from the bench after their RWC adventures with Argentina and Samoa respectively. Richard Bolt will look to play against one of his former clubs as back up at scrum half, with Rory Clegg and Matt Hopper offering cover across the back division.

Meanwhile, Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter admitting his side's two-week break from league duty had served a meaningful purpose.

In the past fortnight the Chiefs have faced both the Ospreys and Saracens in the LV= Cup, defeating the former 35-9 at Sandy Park in their opener before then going down 43-20 to Sarries at Vicarage Road last Sunday.

In both fixtures Baxter took the opportunity to run the rule over a number of his first team squad that had either been on the periphery of the action or had not featured at all during the opening six weeks of the campaign.

“It's been a good challenge for the players,” he said.

“Obviously we had a fantastic performance against Ospreys two weeks ago. The reality, I suppose, was it was a young Ospreys side, but if you look at the other side of it – virtually the same side a week later almost turned over a full strength Northampton team.

“In rugby sometimes things chop and change a little bit, but I think the big thing for us was to see which players could follow up that good performance against Ospreys against what was a very good Saracens side away from home. In the end a number of them stood up and backed up that first performance, but we also had a few guys – when reviewing the game – that weren't too happy with their performances.

“What it does mean now, however, is that we are picking from a much fitter, fresher group of players this week and that is what we kind of had to have coming out of these LV= Cup games. You know, whatever happens in your first few seasons in the Premiership you get judges on where you finish in the league, not where you finish in cup competitions.

“For me, now it's back to the actual full on stuff this weekend against what is a very good Harlequins team, who are unbeaten so far and playing some decent rugby.”

With Baxter's options boosted by the recent return of former Quins' favourite Gonzalo Camacho (pictured) and prop Craig Mitchell from World Cup duty; plus prop Chris Budgen from the Forces World Cup and fellow forwards Hoani Tui and James Hanks from injury, selection he admits has been “tough” ahead of this latest match-up.

“There were three or four positions that took a lot of debating, but that's how we want it to be,” he added.

“I don't think we were ever expecting the guys who played in the recent Cup games to take over en bloc, but we were expecting some guys to push through. In the end some have forced their way up the ladder and given us some headaches, whilst some of the other 50-50 questions have been answered as well.

“This week's selection was tough, but as happens in sport it can all change on a week by week basis. I know there are one or two guys disappointed not to be involved this weekend, but I've spoken to them and told them they are banging on the door and that they are definitely in the reckoning should someone fail to perform.”

Form: Harlequins' perfect start to the new season continued with an eighth successive victory in all competitions at Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Quins have not lost at the Twickenham Stoop since Saracens were the visitors on 7 May 2011. Exeter Chiefs have slipped to three defeats in their last four Aviva Premiership matches. The Chiefs have not won on the road since their 30-28 victory at Leicester on the opening weekend of the new season. The four previous encounters between the two clubs in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw (capt), 5 George Robson, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Kyle Sinckler, 18 Tim Fairbrother, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Richard Bolt, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Matt Hopper.

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Bryan Rennie, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 John Andress, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Hoani Tui, 19 Chris Bentley, 20 Ben White, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Josh Tatupu.

Date: Saturday, October 29
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Referee: Sean Davey