Preview: London Welsh v Harlequins

Date published: January 2 2015

London Welsh have made five changes to their side for Sunday’s Premiership clash with Harlequins at the Kassam Stadium.

The Exiles name a starting XV boasting nine members of its Championship winning side of last season, with three more on the bench.

In the backs, former Quin Seb Stegmann starts on the right wing, with Nic Reynolds named at outside centre in place of the suspended Tom May. Paul Rowley comes in at scrum-half.

In the forwards, Ben West is set to make his Premiership debut after being named in the second row, while Peter Browne, another ex-Quin, starts at blindside.

Carl Kirwan captain’s the side.

“Preparations this week haven’t been ideal, having to train at Ealing and Maidenhead due to a frozen pitch at Old Deer Park, but that’s life and we have to just get on with it,” said London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell.

“We’re half way through the season and we haven’t won a game, but the work ethic this week, if anything, has gone up.

“We’re constantly assessing where we’re at and what we’re doing. There’s nobody in our environment burying their head in the sand and that would be quite easy to do. It’s about rolling our sleeves up and continuing to work hard, and continuing to look for that first win.

“It seems to be a given for many now that we will be relegated, but we don’t see it that way. We’re 14 points adrift and there are 11 games left, but that’s not something we discuss. What we discuss is that we need to keep focusing and working hard. People are still upbeat and it’s still a good place to be.

“Across the board Harlequins have got a strike force and strength – they have so many threats. Every team in the Premiership is stacked with international players of all different nations, but that’s the Aviva Premiership and that’s why it’s the best league in the world.”

Harlequins won the earlier meeting between the sides at the Twickenham Stoop in October 52-0.

London Welsh last tasted victory over Harlequins during the 1984/85 season – the Exiles winning 25-21 at the Stoop. Quins have won the intervening 14 meetings between the two sides.

Meanwhile, there are five changes to the Harlequins squad which played Northampton Saints last week. In the back three Ollie Lindsay-Hague is named alongside Aseli Tikoirotuma, with Karl Dickson starting at scrum-half.

Joe Gray and Sam Twomey are the two changes in the forwards, starting at hooker and lock respectively.

Among the replacements, Ben Botica and Tom Williams will look to make their return from injury.

Form: London Welsh have lost all eleven Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters this season tallying just one league point themselves whilst allowing their opponents to amass 53. The Exiles have been defeated in all eight games in all tournaments at Kassam Stadium this season, and have not won there since beating Bristol in the first leg of last year’s Championship final. Harlequins’ only win in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was 15-7 at home to Newcastle in Round 10. ‘Quins’ only away win outside of the London double-header this season came when they visited Gloucester on 14 November. Harlequins have won their last six encounters with London Welsh in all tournaments.

The teams:

London Welsh: 15 Will Robinson, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Seb Jewell, 11 Nick Scott, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Paul Rowley, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Carl Kirwan (c), 6 Peter Browne, 5 James Down, 4 Ben West, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Nathan Vella, 1 Nathan Trevett.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Ben Cooper, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Olly Barkley, 23 James Tincknell

Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 George Lowe, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter (c), 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 5 Sam Twomey, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Tom Williams

Date: Sunday, 4 January
Venue: Kassam Stadium
Kick-off: 14.30 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick and Jonathan Healy
Television match official: Rowan Kitt