Preview: Harlequins v Leicester

Date published: February 18 2016

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Manu Tuilagi, Brendon O'Connor and Ed Slater return from injury to start for Leicester Tigers in Friday's Premiership trip to Harlequins.

Tuilagi has missed the last three games with a hamstring strain, while O'Connor makes his first appearance since the derby match against Northampton Saints in early January after a hamstring injury. Club captain Slater returns after a seven-week absence with a knee injury.

There is also a place in the matchday squad for the first time for former South Africa captain Jean de Villiers who is named among the replacements. De Villiers has recovered from the fractured jaw which cut short his World Cup and a subsequent calf problem which has delayed his debut for Tigers.

Mathew Tait reverts to full-back to accommodate the return of Tuilagi at centre, with Telusa Veainu joining Peter Betham on the wings.

Slater is joined by Mike Fitzgerald in the second-row. Laurence Pearce follows his try-scoring appearance at Newcastle last week with a recall to the back-row alongside Tom Croft and O'Connor.

Meanwhile, there are five personnel changes to the Harlequins starting team which played Gloucester last week. 

Dave Ward moves from the openside flank and starts in the front-row alongside Adam Jones and Mark Lambert.

James Horwill captains the side in the second-row with Nick Easter returning at number eight.

In the backs, Winston Stanley is named at outside centre, with Ben Botica starting at fly-half. Botica replaces Nick Evans who underwent surgery on a broken leg this week; the fly-half is expected to be out for 12 weeks with a return in early May.

Among the replacements Sam Egerton, who joined Harlequins from England Sevens as injury cover for Karl Dickson, will look to make his debut for the club.

Form: Harlequins have slipped to four straight defeats in all competitions since their 34-26 victory against Cardiff Blues at Twickenham Stoop in the European Challenge Cup on 17th January. One of those defeats was in their most recent encounter at the Stoop against Northampton, a venue where they have not lost successive matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby since September 2013. Leicester Tigers only victory in their last four encounters was by a single point at Gloucester on 30th January. This remains their only victory on the road in any competition since they beat Munster in their own backyard in the European Champions Cup in December. Leicester were victorious 22-19 when the two clubs met at Welford Road in round 2 and have not achieved a season’s double over the Londoners since 2010/11. Tigers have lost on their last four visits to Twickenham Stoop in all tournaments since their 43-33 win there in Aviva Premiership Rugby in April 2012.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Mat Luamanu, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Oli Bryant, 23 Jean de Villiers

Date: Friday, February 19
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Wayne Falla
TMO: Sean Davey

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