Harlequins v Toulouse, The Stoop
Quins eye fifteenth straight win
December 8, 2011
Ugo Monye handed a boost to Quins this week with his new contract © Getty Images
The leaders of the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 come face-to-face at the Stoop on Friday in round three of the Heineken Cup.
Harlequins are currently in the midst of a 14-game unbeaten run having taken 10 Premiership matches, two Anglo-Welsh Cup clashes and their opening two games of the Heineken Cup. They accounted for Connacht in the opening round at the Stoop winning 25-17 before travelling to Kingsholm and coming away with a 28-9 win against the Cherry and Whites. And with two clashes in as many weekends against the Top 14 champions Toulouse, they will aim to cement their status as genuine Heineken Cup contenders with a pair of impressive performances.
But standing in their way are the four-time Heineken Cup champions. Under the guidance of Guy Noves, the Top 14 giants know what it takes to travel to the Stoop and come away with the win. The sides have met three times in Europe in the past with Toulouse taking all three ties. But with Harlequins looking to preserve their unbeaten record, this will be Toulouse's toughest clash with the Premiership side yet.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: George Robson is the inform second-row in the Premiership and his name has been bounded around the England scene. And in what will be his biggest test of the season, expect Robson to put in a big performance.
Harlequins - Team News: The Quins team sees a number of players returning, having missed the victory over London Wasps last weekend. George Robson returns to the front five alongside Tomas Vallejos, with Chris Brooker starting at hooker alongside Joe Marler and James Johnston. Nick Easter returns at number 8, allowing captain, Chris Robshaw to return to the flank partnered with Maurie Fa'asavalu. The backline remains unchanged from Wasps, other than Benjamin Urdapilleta taking over at inside centre from Tom Casson who has picked up an ankle injury in training.
Toulouse - Player to Watch: The top try-scorer of the 2011 World Cup starts for Toulouse on the wing and Vincent Clerc will hope to make an immediate impact. On his day he is still one of the most potent attacking weapons in Europe so expect Clerc to shine on the biggest stage of them in all in terms of domestic rugby.
Toulouse - Team News: Despite injuries to the likes of Clement Poitrenaud and Gurthro Steenkamp, the Top 14 champions have still managed to name a team laced with quality. Maxime Medard takes the fullback reins while Vincent Clerc and Timoci Mantanavou start on the wings. Florian Fritz and Yannick Jauzion are the chosen centre combination with Luke McAlister and Luke Burgess starting at half-back. Jean-Baptiste Poux, Gary Botha and Census Johnston form the front-row with Gregory Lamboley and Yoann Maestri in the second-row engine room. Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir and Louis Picamoles form the back-row.
Key Battle: The battle of the Kiwi fly-halves will be fascinating. Both would have had an envious eye on Stephen Donald as he kicked the winning penalty in the 2011 World Cup final and with this in mind, both will look to put down a marker on Friday evening.
Trivia: Ugo Monye is Harlequins' top try-scorer in clashes between the two sides with four scores.
Stats: Toulouse recorded their biggest ever Heineken Cup win against Ebbw Vale back in the 1998-99 season when they prevailed 108-16
"It's the ultimate test - they can pick two sides packed full of full internationals, world-class superstars. If you're not going to enjoy playing rugby in that kind of environment, you shouldn't be around."
"It is a great competition, renowned worldwide and it is an honour to be playing in it. It is extremely challenging and you get to experience different styles of rugby across the nations so it makes it a very interesting tournament. It is both very physical and very tactically challenging."
Prediction: Quins will make it 15 from 15 on Friday under the floodlights
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