Planet Rugby

Preview: Harlequins v London Irish

10th February 2012 12:21

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George Robson Harlequins

George Robson: Leads Harlequins in the absence of Chris Robshaw

Harlequins return to Aviva Premiership action at the Stoop for the first time since beating Newcastle at the end of November, welcoming London Irish in the reverse fixture from the London Double Header.

From last week's high scoring encounter with Cardiff Blues, Ross Chisholm continues at full-back alongside Sam Smith and the returning Tom Williams.

Matt Hopper returns from England Saxons duty to partner Tom Casson in the centre, outside Nick Evans and Danny Care at half-back.

Mark Lambert, Joe Gray and James Johnston all return to provide the scrum foundation. Olly Kohn partners George Robson again in the second row, with Robson taking over the captaincy from Chris Robshaw who will lead England in Rome.

Tom Guest, Luke Wallace and Nick Easter link up in the back row.

The bench sees Chris Brooker, Tim Fairbrother and Aston Croall ready to make an impact in the front row with Tomas Vallejos and Will Skinner providing back-up in the second row and back row respectively.

Karl Dickson comes on the bench providing specialist cover at scrum-half continuing his return from injury, with Rory Clegg and George Lowe - himself continuing his own return from injury - covering the rest of the backline.

Meanwhile, London Irish head coach Toby Booth has made five changes from the side that beat Gloucester last weekend.

Topsy Ojo returns to the wing with Jonathan Joseph partnering Shontayne Hape in the centres. David Paice and Faan Rautenbach return to the front row with Kieran Roche named in the back row alongside Richard Thorpe and Matt Garvey.

"It is important that we continue the momentum we gained from last weekend and play with the attacking intent we have shown in recent weeks," said Booth.

"Points are crucial at this time of the season as we continue to push for a play-off position. The players have prepared well this week despite the weather and are ready for the contest."

Form: Harlequins have slipped to three successive defeats in all competitions but have not lost four in a row since January 2010. Quins' only win in their last four home games was 20-14 over Gloucester in the Heineken Cup on 14 January. London Irish ended a three game losing streak with their 23-15 victory at home to Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday. The Exiles' solo win on the road in the Aviva Premiership this season was 14-13 at Northampton in round three. Harlequins have already beaten London Irish twice this season: 29-24 in the Premiership at Twickenham in September and 26-19 at Twickenham Stoop in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in October. The Exiles have not won at the Stoop since the Premiership semi-final in May 2009.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson (c), 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Aston Croall, 18 Tim Fairbrother, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Will Skinner, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 George Lowe.

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Richard Thorpe, 7 Kieran Roche, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody (c).
Replacements: 16 Brian Blaney, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Ed Siggery, 20 Marland Yarde, 21 Delon Armitage, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Ross Samson.

Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: The Stoop
Kick-off: 14:00
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth

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