Quins look to secure Heineken Cup status
May 6, 2011
Saracens' David Strettle stretches the Quins defence during their previous clash in December © Getty Images
Amlin Challenge Cup-chasing Harlequins will look to secure Heineken Cup rugby next season via the more conventional route when they play host to Saracens at The Stoop on Saturday.
Last weekend's stunning victory over Munster carried Quins into the final of Europe's second-tier club competition with a place amongst the elite awaiting the winner - but Conor O'Shea's side can guarantee their place in the Heineken Cup if they can leap-frog London Irish into a sixth-place finish in the Aviva Premiership table.
Saracens are already assured of their place in the semi-finals - and a home tie - thanks largely to a sparkling run of form that has seen them win their last 10 matches in all competitions - their best run since 1988-89. But Mark McCall's side are unlikely to take their foot of the pedal with momentum often the key to success at this time of the season.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Danny Care has been in superb form of late and will be keen to further his international claims against the Premiership's in-form side.
Harlequins - Team News: Ceri Jones and Matt Cairns start at loose-head and hooker respectively due to knocks for Joe Marler and Joe Gray. An ankle injury for Nick Evans sees the fly-half sidelined and Rory Clegg takes up the reigns in the No.10 shirt. The game will be the last in Quins' colours for many with Jones, winger Gonzalo Camacho, and replacements John Andress and Dave Moore also amongst those heading for the exit.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Resurgent prop Matt Stevens is another player with World Cup aspirations and will no doubt be keen to leave a sizeable impression on his Quins counterparts.
Saracens - Team News: Hayden Smith gets the nod at lock with captain Steve Borthwick given a breather on the bench. There is also a re-jigged back-row with Jacques Burger moving to blindside at the expense of Kelly Brown and Andy Saull stepping up into the openside berth.
Key Battle: Two of the Premiership's class acts line-up opposite each other at The Stoop in the form of Quins No.8 Nick Easter and his Saracens counterpart Ernst Joubert. Expect a masterclass from one or both.
Trivia: Saracens have won their last three encounters with Quins and can also boast three victories in their last four visits to The Stoop.
Stats: Quins' Chris Robshaw has made 240 tackles in the Premiership this season - a mark bettered only by Exeter's James Scaysbrook who can boast 244.
"If London Irish lose and we win we are in Europe so we need to look after ourselves. If they win and there is nothing we can do then fair enough, but if they slip up and we haven't focussed on the game because people have their eye on the final that is unacceptable." - Quins boss Conor O'Shea demands focus from his side
"I haven't had a single phone call or a 'How are you doing?' from the Bok management - nothing at all." - Saracens hooker Schalk Brits bemoans the lack of contact from the Springboks
Fantasy: If Saracens hooker Schalk Brits is not already in your Time to change your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game line-up then what have you been doing?
Prediction: Saracens are on a roll and not even a Quins side boasting an impressive Munster scalp will be able to derail their march into the post-season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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