Preview: Harlequins v Saracens

Date published: September 23 2016

EXETER, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 17: Chris Robshaw of Harlequins during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins at Sandy Park on September 17, 2016 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Harlequins have made six changes to the starting team which played Exeter Chiefs last weekend for their clash with Saracens.

Matt Hopper and Jamie Roberts start in the centres, as Tim Visser returns to the left wing. In the forwards, Will Collier, George Merrick and James Chisholm make their first starts of the season.

Chisholm starts in place of Jack Clifford who, after sustaining an ankle injury against Exeter Chiefs, will undergo surgery. The England back row is expected to be out for around ten weeks.

Among the replacements, Joe Gray will look to make his first appearance of the season.

Speaking ahead of the fixture, Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston said: “We are really excited about playing our first competitive game at The Stoop, this match is the start of a period of five home games across three competitions in the next seven weeks.  

“Saracens are a team we have a huge amount of respect for, but we need to ensure we begin our account at The Stoop strongly and repeat the success we had against them in January.

“It is very disappointing and unfortunate that Jack has sustained his ankle injury which will keep him out for approximately ten weeks. He is a fierce competitor and I have no doubt he will work exceptionally hard to get himself back on the field as quickly as possible.

“We are fortunate that we have a very competitive back row and this has provided an exciting opportunity for James Chisholm to make his mark in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, Saracens have named their side for Saturday's trip to the Stoop.

Mike Ellery comes in for the suspended Chris Ashton on the right wing, joining Chris Wyles (left wing) and Alex Goode (full-back) in the Saracens back-three. Sean Maitland is ruled out with a knock, whilst Duncan Taylor remains side-lined with an ankle injury.

The in-form Marcelo Bosch continues to partner Brad Barritt, who captain’s the side. With Owen Farrell still sidelined with a hip injury, Alex Lozowski continues at fly-half and will be joined by Richard Wigglesworth in the halves.

Up front, Schalk Brits continues at hooker, and is joined by Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead prop) in the front row. George Kruis misses out with a back injury, so Jim Hamilton continues to partner Maro Itoje at lock. In the back row, Mike Rhodes is named at blindside flanker whilst Jackson Wray takes the place of Schalk Burger, with the South African loose forward rested for the game. Billy Vunipola continues at number eight.

England hooker Jamie George is joined by Richard Barrington and Juan Figallo as the front-row replacements, with Kelly Brown and Scott Spurling the other forwards named on the bench. Ben Spencer is the half-back cover with Nick Tompkins and Matt Gallagher the three-quarter replacements.

Form: All three of Harlequins matches in Premiership Rugby this season have been won by the home side on the day. This is Harlequins first game at Twickenham Stoop since losing there 24-62 to Exeter in round 22 last season – the most points they have ever conceded in any competition at the venue. Saracens winning streak continued with a 13th successive victory in all competitions, against Northampton at Allianz Park on Saturday. Saracens lost just twice on the road in Premiership Rugby last season, at Harlequins in round nine and at Leicester in round 17. Saracens only defeat in their last nine Premiership Rugby encounters with Harlequins was 23-29 at The Stoop on 9th January. The North Londoners have won on seven of their last nine visits to Twickenham Stoop.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 James Chisholm, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Alofa Alofa

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Scott Spurling, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Matt Gallagher

Date: Saturday, September 24
Venue: The Stoop
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys 
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Phil Watters
TMO: David Grashoff

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