Preview: Harlequins v London Irish

Date published: March 6 2015

Two familiar rivals meet at The Stoop on Saturday, with Harlequins hosting their old tenants London Irish.

Sliding all the way down to 9th after three consecutive league losses to Wasps, Exeter and Northampton, Harlequins are in desperate need of a kickstart at home to London Irish if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs.

Given they are 13 points behind the top four that seems very unlikely but they could close the gap if results go their way over the weekend. 

Irish meanwhile are purely battling for pride at the bottom of the table but have showed some resolve in recent defeats to Northampton and Leicester by less than seven points, before thrashing London Welsh last weekend to move up into 10th. Next season, with their new coaching staff and signings, should be better.

There are four changes to the starting team that played Northampton Saints last weekend for Quins. Tighthead prop Matt Shields makes his starting debut in the Premiership, having made his first Premiership appearance for the club last week.

Nick Easter, who was released from the England camp this week, starts at number eight. 24 year-old openside flanker Luke Wallace will make his 100th senior appearance for the club. 

In the backs, Danny Care, who was also released from the England squad, has recovered from a calf strain and starts, with Ross Chisholm named at full-back. Among the replacements, current England U20 Seb Adeniran-Olule is named.

Meanwhile, London Irish’s Shane Geraghty has been named as captain due to George Skivington being ruled out with a foot injury.

London Irish head coach, Glenn Delaney, has made four changes to his side that beat London Welsh last weekend, all four coming up front. 

Tom Court and Halani Aulika both make returns to the starting line-up to join David Paice in the front row. Jebb Sinclair moves into the second row to join Nic Rouse and Scotland international Blair Cowan returns to the Exiles side to pack down alongside Ofisa Treviranus and Tom Guest in the back row.

The back line remains unchanged. Scott Steele and Shane Geraghty are named in the half-backs, with Eamonn Sheridan and Tom Fowlie continuing their partnership in the centre. James Short, Alex Lewington and Andrew Fenby are named as the back three.

Head Coach Glenn Delaney said of his selection: “We have made a few changes up front this week. We have been forced into one or two through injury but we are also bolstered by some guys returning from both injury and international duty which is great. The back line has been working well of late so we have decided to stick with it and trust the guys to go out there and do the job. Harlequins are a top side and The Stoop is always a tough place to go so we will have to be at our best come Saturday.”

Form: Harlequins have lost their last five matches in all competitions, their worst run since season 2009/10. Quins have suffered just two defeats at Twickenham Stoop in their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at the venue: to Sale in round 8 and Exeter in round 15. London Irish ended a four game losing run in all competitions with their 50-12 victory at London Welsh on Saturday – their highest points total in the tournament since 2012. The Exiles have not won successive away games in Premiership Rugby since their opening two trips this season, to Newcastle and Leicester. London Irish’s only win in their last eight fixtures with Harlequins in all tournaments was 18-13 at Madejski Stadium in Aviva Premiership Rugby in October 2013. The Irishmen have not been victorious at Twickenham Stoop since they won their 17-0 in the semi-final of Premiership Rugby in May 2009.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson (c), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Matt Shields, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert 
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Seb Adeniran-Olule, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ugo Monye

London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 James Short, 10 Shane Geraghty (c), 9 Scott Steele, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Jebb Sinclair, 4 Nic Rouse, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Luke Narraway, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Eoin Griffin

Date: Saturday, 7 March
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes & Luke Pearce
TMO: Stuart Terheege