Preview: Harlequins v Montpellier

Date published: May 12 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  Nick Easter of Harlequins releases a pass towards Nick Evans of Harlequins during the European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 3 match between Harlequins and Montpellier at Twickenham Stoop on November 12, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Harlequins know that not only is the Challenge Cup title on the line in Lyon against Montpellier but also a spot at next season’s top table.

Win and the English side would book a place in 2016/17’s Champions Cup, with Montpellier already secured of that due to their Top 14 form.

It was hardly ideal preparation for Harlequins last weekend as they found themselves on the receiving end of a 62-24 defeat to Exeter on their home patch. They’ll hope that was because of having one eye on this Friday and nothing else as play like that and they will lose.

Harlequins were not alone though in losing last week as Montpellier also came unstuck, with their 36-10 loss cushioned slightly by the fact Jake White had gone with a weakened team. Returning on Friday will be Bismarck du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Frans Steyn and others.

In fact, White makes wholesale changes to his line-up with the most notable seeing Nic White getting the nod ahead of Benoît Paillaugue at scrum-half. The Australian partners South Africa’s Demetri Catrakilis.

Meanwhile, there are eight changes to the Harlequins starting XV that played the Chiefs in their Premiership finale last week as George Lowe and Tim Visser have recovered from knocks and return to the backline.

In a changed front five loosehead Joe Marler, hooker Joe Gray, tighthead Adam Jones and locks James Horwill and Sam will Twomey start, with Luke Wallace returning to the openside flank on Friday.

On the bench, Dave Ward, Mark Lambert, Karl Dickson and Ross Chisholm are named and will look to add impact in front of 28,000 fans.

Following the tragic news of loosehead prop Seb Adeniran-Olule this week, there will be a minute’s silence before the match. The Harlequins squad will also wear black arm bands in the player’s memory.

Players to Watch

For Harlequins: The heartbeat of this Quins side has for a long time been Danny Care and Nick Evans. If they can click and their forwards gain parity up front, then the Englishmen have a chance of lifting the trophy. Jamie Roberts also rises to the big game often.

For Montpellier: The rock that is Bismarck du Plessis will be key to Montpellier. Their game-plan is built up front as they eek out the penalties for fly-half Demetri Catrakilis to do the damage. Also keep an eye on the physicality Frans Steyn brings to the midfield against Roberts.

Head to head: As mentioned the scrap for metres between inside centres Jamie Roberts and Frans Steyn whets the appetite as both enter in decent form. Steyn can be rattled though so if Roberts can get on top, it will be interesting to see how this one plays out in Lyon.

Prediction: Harlequins were blown away last week and we think the French might also get the better of them due to their power game. Montpellier by 8.

The teams:

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

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavke, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Marvin O’Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic White, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Benoît Paillaugue, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Jesse Mogg

Date: Friday, May 13
Venue: Grand Stade de Lyon
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

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