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Preview: Harlequins v Wasps

08th February 2013 12:35

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Joe Gray Harlequins AVP 2013

Joe Gray: Starts at hooker for Quins

Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea has rung the changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash against Wasps at the Stoop.

There are a number of alterations to the team that defeated the Ospreys last weekend to secure a home semi-final in the LV= Cup.

Joe Gray, George Robson, Ugo Monye, George Lowe, Jordan Turner-Hall and Rob Buchanan return to the side following international duty with the England Saxons, while Tom Williams, Nick Evans and captain, Nick Easter start.

Meanwhile, Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has named a strong and exciting side to face the league leaders this weekend.

Billy Vunipola returns from his time with England to take his place in the side, starting at eight, flanked by Ashley Johnson at six and Sam Jones at seven.

At lock, vice-captain Marco Wentzel lines up alongside James Cannon, while in the front row, T Rhys Thomas starts at hooker, with Zak Taulafo and Phil Swainston either side of him.

The back-line has an exciting feel about it, having been boosted this week by the return of a number of players who were included in the England Saxons squad.

Joe Simpson starts at nine, with Nick Robinson outside him at fly half, while Chris Bell and Elliot Daly pair up in midfield. Christian Wade and Tom Varndell take their places on the wings, with captain Hugo Southwell at full-back.

On the bench, Alex Rae is included in the squad after signing for the club this week. Charlie Hayter also gets a spot on the bench, having impressed during the recent LV=Cup games.

"There has been a good atmosphere around the place this week in leading up to the first Aviva Premiership game in over a month," said Young.

"Harlequins are a side who tend to negotiate the international periods very well so we know how tough a task we will have on Saturday night.

"They showed us how quickly they can change a game on the opening day of the season and we will have to be at our best to get a result this weekend."

Form: Harlequins are now on a ten match winning streak in all competitions, and have won their last seven encounters at the Twickenham Stoop. The reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions are once again the form team in the tournament (along with Leicester) with both sides securing 22 league points from their last six games. London Wasps only loss in their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was at Exeter, 23-30, on 1 December. Wasps 34-15 victory at London Welsh in round twelve ended an unwanted twelve-game losing run away from home in the Premiership. Harlequins have won their last six fixtures against Wasps in all tournaments. Wasps have not won at the Twickenham Stoop since a visit in the Premiership on 10 March 2007.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Matt Hopper, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter (c), 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Jordan Turner-Hall.

Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (c), 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 James Cannon, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Tim Payne, 18 Will Taylor, 19 Alex Rae, 20 Tinus Du Plessis, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Stephen Jones, 23 Charlie Hayter.

Date: Saturday, 9 February
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Nigel Carrick
Television match official: Geoffrey Warren

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