Preview: Harlequins v London Irish

Date published: April 8 2016

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Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea has made five changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Challenge Cup quarter-final against London Irish at the Stoop.

George Lowe, the sole change to the backline  which beat Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership last week, returns from injury to start in the centres alongside Jamie Roberts.

Among the forwards Mark Lambert and Adam Jones start in the front row, with Sam Twomey named in the second row alongside George Merrick. Luke Wallace returns to the back-row and partners Chris Robshaw and Jack Clifford.

Among the replacements, Joe Marchant will look to make his European debut for the club.

Meanwhile, London Irish flankers Joe Trayfoot and Tom Guest will return to their former stomping ground after being named in the Exiles' run-on side.

The ex-Quins duo come into the back row alongside number-eight Rob McCusker as the Exiles eye a place in the last four of the Challenge Cup.

Elsewhere in the pack, Tom Smallbone and Leo Halavatau get the nod in the front row either side of skipper David Paice, whilst Will Lloyd and Jebb Sinclair are the driving force in the engine room.

Meanwhile, fly-half Shane Geraghty and scrum-half Brendan McKibbin form a new half-back combination, with Theo Brophy Clews and Fergus Mulchrone starting at inside and outside centre respectively.

“Harlequins are a strong team and despite a recent dip in form, they showed against Newcastle that if they get good fast ball, they can put points on the board very quickly,” said Irish's assistant coach Clark Laidlaw.

“We are well aware of that, and we are looking to combat the threats which will be crucial to the result in the end.

“We have a number of players who have been sat waiting for an opportunity, and those players will get a chance in the side this weekend due to injuries and European registration.

“They each have a great opportunity to stake a claim and be right in the mix for the Newcastle game the week after. It would give everyone a lift if we turned up to the Stoop and put on a performance and get the win, so we are certainly preparing to do that come Saturday night.

“Everyone is really excited about playing a local derby at the Stoop – we were frustrated not to get the win last weekend as for large parts of the game we were on top and didn’t take our chances.

“We felt that we had a lot of opportunities that we missed out on for various reasons, but we’ve worked hard on the areas that we need to improve on to get ourselves ready for Harlequins.”

Form: Harlequins will be highly motivated move on to the next round as they want to give their director of rugby Conor O'Shea a perfect send-off before he leaves the club to take over the reins as Italy's new coach. Harlequins reached the quarter-finals after finishing at top of a tough pool which also included Montpellier and Cardiff Blues. Quins have been on the victorious side in 10 of their 14 knockout matches in the Challenge Cup. They have also won each of their last eight home fixtures in the Challenge Cup, including a quarter-final win over Wasps in 2011 which is their longest streak in the competition. Quins lost their last match in the pool stage but have not been defeated in consecutive games in the Challenge Cup since December 2002. London Irish  London Irish have beaten a Premiership side just once in the history of the Challenge Cup. That was a 27-22 victory over Newcastle Falcons in their semi-final in 2006. The Exiles were on the winning side in three of their five quarter-finals, although they've lost the last two. 

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Sam Twomey, 4 George Merrick, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert 
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Joe Marchant, 23 Ross Chisholm

London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Tom Fowlie, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Joe Trayfoot, 6 Tom Guest, 5 Jebb Sinclair, 4 William Lloyd, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 David Paice (c), 1 Tom Smallbone
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Court, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Ollie Curry, 20 David Sisi, 21 Gerard Ellis, 22 Darren Allinson, 23 Scott Steele

Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 20:05 BST (19:05 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Elia Rizzo (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

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