Evans back to face Gloucester
January 13, 2012
Nick Evans returns to his favoured fly-half spot for the Heineken Cup match © Getty Images
Harlequins have been handed a boost ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with Gloucester with Nick Evans making a welcome return to the starting XV.
Evans has missed their last two matches with Rory Clegg filling in at fly-half but with a spot in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on offer, Conor O'Shea has wasted no time in installing the former All Blacks international back in the side.
Quins boss O'Shea has also shuffled around his pack. England's Joe Marler - who was named in the EPS this week ahead of the 2012 Six Nations - will have to make do with a spot among the replacements as Mark Lambert will start at loose-head. Joe Gray gets the nod at hooker ahead of Chris Brooker. Charlie Matthews comes into the second-row in place of George Robson who has failed to recover from a knock. And Chris Robshaw - one of the candidates for the England captaincy - takes the openside berth with Nick Easter filling in at No.8.
And O'Shea has sounded a warning to his charges to take full advantage of their epic win against Toulouse when they face the Cherry and Whites. Quins' success in France almost four weeks ago kept them on course for an automatic quarter-final place from Pool Six. They are now just one point behind the French heavyweights, who host Connacht tomorrow and then travel to Gloucester next Friday.
Aviva Premiership leaders Quins have lost three of their last five games in all competitions after enjoying a long unbeaten start to the campaign and despite overcoming Toulouse in France 31-24 in Round 4, that result will count for nothing unless they can overcome Gloucester. The Cherry and Whites suffered a poor loss to Worcester last weekend while Quins fell to the Northampton Saints last Friday.
"It has been a pretty tough run for the guys," O'Shea said. "(But) we have come through it top of the Premiership table and we are playing for a place in the last eight of the Heineken Cup.
"As a group, we are getting used to playing massive games each week, and this is part of our learning curve. The victory in Toulouse was a seminal moment for the club, but it counts for nothing if it is not backed up on Saturday. Gloucester represent a huge challenge to us, as they are developing one of the most talented squads in the country."
O'Shea's sentiments have been echoed by flanker Luke Wallace, who will have to be content with a spot on the bench. "We will be looking for a reaction in training this week, looking at the ruck clearance and things like that where we fell down at Northampton," Wallace told the Hounslow Chronicle. "We are all really looking forward to Gloucester at home and we need a big performance. Toulouse will take advantage of any slip up, so we have to win all our games, but we're looking to win every game we play in anyway."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham