Preview: Worcester v Harlequins

Date published: December 31 2015

Marco Mama and Donncha O'Callaghan return to the Worcester Warriors forward pack for Sunday's Premiership clash with Harlequins at Sixways.

An unchanged backline from last weekend's trip to Bath sees Chris Pennell, Bryce Heem and Cooper Vuna in the back three with Ryan Mills and Wynand Olivier in the centre.

Tom Heathcote and Jonny Arr complete the half-back combination.

Na'ama Leleimalefaga, Niall Annett and Nick Schonert occupy the front-row followed by O'Callaghan and Darren Barry in the second-row.

Phil Dowson will once again lead the side from number eight next to openside flanker Mama and blindside Matt Cox.

Ryan Bower could be set for his first Premiership appearance for Warriors from the bench while Ben Sowrey and Gareth Milasinovich are also named among the replacements.

"We've got a unique challenge defensively to cope with Harlequins' speed of thought," said boss Dean Ryan.

"Danny Care and Nick Evans play with an incredible tempo. The team play with a level of freedom that can catch you by surprise if you assume anything.

"But we're at home and I'd like to think we can put a few things together that can put them under pressure.

"We look like we can score and we are scoring tries while our defence has been outstanding too under much pressure.

"You learn more when you're competitive week in, week out and not just winning random games because of a dropped ball or something.

"We're starting to get into good positions and now the group need to learn how to convert these close games into wins.”

Meanwhile, there are four changes to the Harlequins side which drew against Gloucester during Big Game 8 at Twickenham Stadium last week.

Charlie Walker and Ross Chisholm start on the wings as Adam Jones and Luke Wallace are named in the front and back-rows respectively.

Among the replacements, Owen Evans will look to make his Premiership debut.

In injury news, Tim Visser is expected to be out for between six to eight weeks due to a hamstring injury sustained during Big Game 8. Marland Yarde picked up a knock and will be available for selection next week, while Mark Lambert is expected to return in three weeks after straining his calf.

Form: Worcester Warriors have lost their last six first team matches since beating La Rochelle 19-3 at Sixways on 14 November. The Warriors 20-29 defeat to Leicester Tigers in their most recent home game in the Premiership ended a three game home winning run in the tournament. Harlequins have lost just one of their last nine fixtures in all tournaments – 25-26 to Exeter at Sandy Park in Round 5 of the Premiership. Harlequins have achieved a try bonus point in each of their last seven matches in all competitions. Harlequins have won their last 14 Premiership encounters against the Warriors since Worcester’s 15-9 victory at the Twickenham Stoop in February 2005. Harlequins lost on their first ever visit to Sixways in October 2004 but have won all nine subsequent visits to the venue in all tournaments against all opponents.

The teams:

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Marco Mama, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom Biggs.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Harry Sloan.

Date: Sunday, January 3
Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Geoff Warren