Bath and Quins set for mid-table battle
April 15, 2011
Bath's Simon Taylor takes on Quins' George Robson during their clash at The Stoop earlier in the season © Getty Images
Bath and Harlequins will put their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes on the line at The Rec on Saturday.
Both sides remain in the mix for the post-season but with games running out, a victory is a must if they are to maintain their respective title challenges. But Heineken Cup qualification will be their primary concern and Quins currently occupy the all-important sixth position but are just one point ahead of Bath who have what could prove to be a priceless game in hand.
Bath ended a run of three Premiership defeats with a 26-18 victory over Exeter last weekend while Quins bounced back from a narrow defeat to title-chasing Leicester a fortnight ago to book their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals with a 32-22 victory over Wasps.
Bath were beaten a little more emphatically by the Tigers last month and have lost three other league games at home this season while Quins have only won once on the road - although it was a notable triumph against Northampton.
Bath - Player to Watch: Winger Matt Banahan was back in the scoring habit against the Chiefs last weekend - can he extend that run against Quins?
Bath - Team News: Ben Skirving comes in at No.8 for the injured Luke Watson in the only change to the side that beat Exeter last weekend. Elsewhere, winger Tom Biggs joins the replacements at the expense of Jacques Boussuge.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: England scrum-half Danny Care has bagged two tries in two weeks - can he make it three in a row?
Harlequins - Team News: Captain Chris Robshaw to the starting line-up at openside having recovered from a knee injury with Will Skinner starting on the bench. Elsewhere, Chris Brooker, who will undergo surgery on his shoulder next week, is replaced by Matt Cairns on the bench where Ross Chisholm also replaces Tom Williams.
Key Battle: Quins fly-half Nick Evans claimed the Man of the Match honour last weekend while Bath playmaker Butch James has struggled for his best form of late - will that pattern continue at The Rec on Saturday?
Trivia: The two sides drew 6-6 in their Premiership meeting back in October - the first time they had shared a draw since 1992.
Stats: Quins have won just once at The Rec since 2005 - a 19-3 win on April 4, 2009.
"Harlequins tend to start the game at high tempo, so we need to be ready for that. We know what we need to do, and if we play to our strengths, rather than worrying about theirs, we will be well on course for the win." - Bath's Matt Carraro demands his side raise the bar
"Bath play a very open, expansive game and will challenge us defensively all over the park. They are one of the best ball-in-hand sides in the Premiership and, while our defence has been very good this season, we are under no illusions as to the challenge they pose." - Harlequins head coach John Kingston
Fantasy: Quins scrum-half Danny Care has been in fine form of late and another strong showing could boot your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game chances.
Prediction: Expect Quins to kick on from their recent euro success and put some more breathing space between themselves and Bath.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery