Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Harlequins

22nd March 2013 11:11

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SKY_MOBILE Owen Farrell Brad Barritt - Saracens Heineken Cup

Farrell and Barritt: Back for Sarries

Saracens welcome back their international contingent for Sunday's top-of-the-table Premiership clash with Harlequins at Allianz Park.

A third successive sell-out at Sarries' new home sees Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell and Mako Vunipola all return to the starting line-up after Six Nations duty with England while Scotland captain Kelly Brown is also back in the side.

Farrell starts the game at fly-half which sees Charlie Hodgson among the replacements. He is joined on the bench by John Smit, Neil de Kock and Chris Wyles.

Saracens boss Mark McCall is expecting a tough battle against Quins.

"Under the guidance Conor O'Shea, Harlequins have been one of the most consistent sides for the past 18 months," he said.

"It's a top of the table match and one that everyone connected with the club is looking forward to.

"We welcomed back the international players to the squad this week after international duty and there is a real buzz around the club.

"The depth of the squad has been tested in the past few months and we have come through that well, giving us competition for places across the pitch. That is exactly what we want."

Meanwhile, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Joe Marler and captain, Chris Robshaw also return from England duty to start for the defending champions.

In the Harlequins pack, Joe Gray is named at hooker, while Charlie Matthews starts in the second row with George Robson.

Ugo Monye and Sam Smith start on the wings, with Matt Hopper and Jordan Turner-Hall partnering in the centres.

All eight of the replacements were involved in last week's LV= Cup victory over Sale Sharks.

Form: It's a top two showdown at Allianz Park with Saracens only having lost one of their last eight Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters: 16-29 at London Irish in round 14. Sarries have won all three previous matches played at Allianz Park, whilst they have not been defeated in any home match since Clermont Auvergne visited Vicarage Road in last season's European Cup quarter-finals. Harlequins, the new Anglo-Welsh Cup winners, have lost two of their last four matches in the Premiership, to Exeter and Wasps. Quins, the best away side in the Premiership, have won their last six away games in all competitions since their 18-21 defeat at Bath in the Premiership on 23 November. Harlequins only win over Saracens in their last seven meetings was 24-19 at Wembley Stadium on 31 March 2012.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care,8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 George Lowe.

Date: Sunday, 24 March
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Grashoff

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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954