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Preview: Harlequins v Gloucester

02nd November 2012 08:01

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Matt Hopper scores Harlequins v Gloucester

League leaders: Matt Hopper

With three players being released back to Harlequins from the England squad, Mike Brown starts at full-back for Saturday's Premiership clash with Gloucester at the Stoop while George Robson takes his usual place in the second row.

Jordan Turner-Hall has also been released and following consultation with the England management - the centre will undergo a rehabilitation and conditioning programme to allow his knee to settle further - as a result Tom Casson continues at inside centre with Matt Hopper outside him.

Sam Smith replaces Ugo Monye on the wing, while Nick Evans, who signed a new three year contract with the club this week, returns from injury to join Karl Dickson in the half backs.

Mark Lambert starts at loosehead prop while Joe Gray returns from injury to start at hooker. Luke Wallace comes into the back row with Maurie Fa'asavalu and captain, Nick Easter.

Among the replacements, Academy scrum-half Jordan Burns will look to make his first senior appearance.

Meanwhile, Gloucester Director of Rugby Nigel Davies makes four changes from the side that defeated Leicester Tigers last weekend.

Davies makes one injury enforced change with Matt Cox coming in for Sione Kalamafoni on the blindside flank, while Charlie Sharples is away with England and is replaced by Shane Monahan.

The remaining changes see Dan Murphy named as the loose head prop in place of Nick Wood, while Martyn Thomas gets the nod at full-back ahead of Rob Cook. Cook and Wood are both named amongst the replacements.

Gloucester come into the game having defeated the Leicester Tigers last weekend, a hugely physical encounter. However, Davies told the media this week that the training schedule has been tweaked accordingly.

"It hasn't affected our preparations, it's just altered them a little," said Davies.

"We had to give everything against Leicester so we've adjusted things a little and given the players a couple of days off.

"Hopefully, it'll pay dividends for us this weekend. The most important day of the week for us is matchday and, hopefully, we'll be in the right place physically and mentally."

Form: Defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Harlequins returned to the top of the table following their 31-28 victory at London Irish on Sunday. Quins tripped up in their last game at the Stoop in the Premiership but have not lost successive home games at the venue in the tournament since May 2011. Gloucester's only defeat so far this season came in the opening weekend at home to Northampton. The Cherry & Whites are the only unbeaten side away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season. The last eleven encounters between the two clubs in the Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Gloucester's most recent victory at the Twickenham Stoop in the competition was 31-21 on 9 September 2006.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements:16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Jordan Burns, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Seb Stegmann

Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Shane Monahan, 13 Mike Tindall (c), 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Will James, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Dan Murphy
Replacements: 16 Tommaso d'Apice, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Tim Molenaar, 23 Rob Cook

Date: Saturday, November 3
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 17.15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes

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Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
3Exeter310
4Leicester Tigers39
5Harlequins38
6Sale Sharks37
7London Irish37