Quins out to gatecrash top four
January 7, 2011
Nick Evans has led the way for Harlequins this season © Getty Images
Harlequins tackle Wasps at the Stoop on Saturday with both sides poised for an assault on the top four of the Aviva Premiership.
Quins currently sit sixth after they upset the apple cart with a hard-fought win over former leaders Northampton last weekend and are only two points behind their visitors, who cruised to a big win on their home track last time out against struggling Newcastle. The teams also announced earlier this week that they will face off in an Anglo-Welsh tie staged in Abu Dhabi.
With London Irish and Saracens both floundering these London rivals will scent a return to the play-offs at the end of the season and a victory this weekend will go some way to ensuring that they are in the mix for honours.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: With the Six Nations looming expect Quins scrum-half Danny Care to be hungry for work in a bid to secure the England No.9 shirt.
Harlequins - Team News: There are only two changes to the Quins side that beat Northampton Saints on New Year's Day and they both appear in the front row. Starting alongside Joe Marler is Joe Gray, who returns from a one match absence, in place of Matt Cairns. Completing the trio is Mark Lambert who replaces the injured John Andress.
Wasps - Player to Watch: Riki Flutey made his first start in three months last weekend at inside centre but is handed the playmaking duties at No.10 this time. Will his game be sharp enough to spearhead Wasps' challenge?
Wasps - Team News: Richard Birkett returns to action after a three-month lay-off with an elbow injury and replaces Will Matthews in the back row. Further changes are made in the pack as Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley are rested. Shaw is replaced by Marty Veale whilst Serge Betsen comes in for Worsley. Mark Van Gisbergen starts at fullback and Richard Haughton moves to the wing to partner Tom Varndell, with David Lemi named amongst the replacements. Ben Jacobs again captains the side and partners Steve Kefu in midfield as Riki Flutey moves to fly-half. With Flutey at 10, Dave Walder is named on the bench which also bolstered by the return of Joe Simpson after recovery from a hamstring strain.
Key Battle: Wasps No.8 Andy Powell was in headline-grabbing form last time out but will surely not get everything his way against Quins stalwart Nick Easter.
Trivia: Harlequins have not beaten Wasps since November 2008 - although the sides did play out a draw at this season's London Double Header.
Stats: Wasps have lost only once in their last eight games in all competitions - going down to Saracens at Wembley on Boxing Day.
"I am really pleased that we have broken our away day hoodoo and this gets us back in the mix in the Premiership. It's the most competitive one that I have known." - Quins boss Conor O'Shea hopes his side can kick on from their win over Northampton.
"Wasps v Quins fixtures are always hugely competitive and we expect Saturday's game to be no different. Both teams are pushing for vital points and on the back of recent form it should be a good showdown between the two London sides." - Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks expects a bruising encounter.
Fantasy: Harlequins playmaker Nick Evans has set the gold standard this season and has racked up 109 points in the ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game?
Prediction: Quins to ride their new-found confidence to a vital home victory.
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