Preview: Harlequins v Wasps

Date published: January 16 2015

Harlequins have made two changes to their starting XV for this weekend’s European Champions Cup clash against Wasps.

Tom Williams starts on the wing while Will Collier will play at tighthead in the only changes to the side that beat Leicester Tigers last weekend.

Among the replacements, Nick Evans and Charlie Walker are also named.

Evans believes Harlequins are beginning to find form at just the right time after their convincing 32-12 win over Leicester in the Aviva Premiership last weekend as they prepare to hosts Wasps in a crunch Pool 2 clash at the Twickenham Stoop.

“We are getting back to a style of rugby that has caused problems for a lot of teams,” the fly-half told the Evening Standard.

“We are in a fantastic position in our pool but we all know there is a lot of rugby to be played and now it is about kicking on.

“The guys are working hard and we know it is about consistency and putting a run of games together.”

While Quins enter the fixture on the back of a positive result, Wasps will make the trip south on the back of their defeat to Bath.

The loss came at the end of a positive week for the two-time champions, which had seen director of rugby Dai Young and several first-team players extend their contracts.

This fixture could boast two of the top three turnover winners, with Wasps’ Ashley Johnson and Harlequins’ David Ward both having won nine each in the competition this season – only Steffon Armitage can match that tally.

Wasps have scored nine first half tries in the tournament this season; no side has managed more in the first 40 minutes of their games.

George Robson has stolen more lineouts than any other player in the tournament so far (5), as well as ranking joint-top for catches on his own side’s throw. He has also made the most tackles of any player yet to miss one this season (37/37).

Meanwhile, Tom Varndell and Christian Wade start on the wings for Wasps, with Sailosi Tagicakibau unavailable for selection due to a hamstring strain. Elliot Daly starts at 13 and will be back-up scrum half as all other nines at the Club are out through injury.

Edd Shervington starts at hooker, while prop Jake Cooper-Woolley and back row Guy Thompson come onto the bench.

Going into the game, Dai Young says the aim is clear cut: “We’re just focusing on winning this game so we can take the final pool game back to the Ricoh Arena next Saturday with a realistic possibility of going through.

“We’ll leave it to others to debate permutations. In my mind, we need to win both games to reach the knock-out stages. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that if we win both, we’re through. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s how we’re looking at it.

“The last few games Harlequins have had the wood over us and they have deserved their victories. They played better than us on the day, but the games have been tight enough to suggest that if we play to our potential, we can get a result. If we play like we have done on a number of occasions this season, there’s no reason why can’t come away with the result, but it will need an 80 minute performance.”

Form: Harlequins have won their last three games against fellow English opposition in this tournament, this after losing their first five against fellow sides from their own domestic competition. Wasps have lost both their away games against teams from England.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 George Lowe, 11 Tom Williams, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler (c).
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Nick
Evans, 23 Charlie Walker.

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes , 7 James Haskell (C), 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Simon McIntyre , 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Ben Jacobs, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Andrea Masi

Date: Saturday, 17 January
Venue: The Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales); Jonathan Mason (Wales)