Seventh heaven for Harlequins?
October 28, 2011
Fly-half Nick Evans has played a key role in Harlequins' unblemished start to the season © Getty Images
Harlequins will be looking to maintain their winning start to the new Aviva Premiership season when they tackle Exeter Chiefs at the Stoop on Saturday.
Quins have had a few scares along the way, most notably at Worcester, but their 27-18 triumph over Leicester Tigers last time out means that they are now six from six and four points clear of second-placed Saracens. So, with the benefit of home advantage this weekend, they will be confident of strengthening their grip on top spot by seeing off an Exeter side which appears to have lost some of their early-season momentum.
Indeed, after winning their opening games, the Chiefs have stuttered of late, losing three of their last four in the league, with their most recent outing a demoralising 33-3 defeat at the hands of Northampton. However, Exeter, as they have proven time and time again since returning to the top flight, simply cannot be underestimated.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Luke Wallace has Samoan international and one of the most impressive players at the World Cup Maurie Fa'asavalu breathing down his neck but the young openside has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season so expect a big performance from him.
Harlequins - Team News: Mike Brown returns at full back, alongside Sam Smith & Seb Stegmann in the back three. Nick Evans and Karl Dickson return at half back, with Jordan Turner Hall and George Lowe returning in the centre. Chris Brooker is at hooker, in between Joe Marler and James Johnston at tight-head. George Robson, who re-signed with Harlequins on Friday and will be making his 100th competitive appearance for the club tomorrow, and will play alongside Ollie Kohn in the engine room. Nick Easter returns at No.8 to play alongside skipper Chris Robshaw and the Luke Wallace.
Exeter Chiefs - Player to Watch: Tom Hayes' name is starting to be bounded around by the Irish media as a potential shock call-up to the Ireland Six Nations squad. After a series of sterling performances for the Chiefs, Hayes will look to continue his good form against a formidable Harlequins second-row.
Exeter Chiefs - Team News: Luke Arscott starts at fullback flanked by Bryan Rennie and Matt Jess on the wings. The impressive Sireli Naqelevuki starts in the centres alongside Jason Shoemark with Ignacio Mieres and Haydn Thomas the chosen half-backs. Richard Baxter gets the nod at No.8 with James Scaysbrook and Tom Johnson partnering him in the back-row. James Hanks and captain Tom Hayes start in the second-row engine room with John Andress, Chris Whitehead and Brett Sturgress forming the front-row.
Key Battle: Chris Robshaw's battle with Tom Johnson at blindside will be fascinating. The pair are both vying for an England spot and will be going all out to impress ahead of a potential shake-up in the red rose back-row as a result of Lewis Moody's international retirement.
Trivia: The four previous encounters between the two clubs in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day
Stats: Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans has scored 86 points already this season, making him second top points-scorer behind Tom Homer of London Irish, who has 105
"Having supported Harlequins as a kid, it's going to be a massive honour for me to make my 100th appearance for the club at the Stoop this Saturday. I want to continue being part of a successful team, in a positive environment, whilst striving to fulfil my own international aspirations"
"This week's selection was tough, but as happens in sport it can all change on a week by week basis. I know there are one or two guys disappointed not to be involved this weekend, but I've spoken to them and told them they are banging on the door and that they are definitely in the reckoning should someone fail to perform"
Prediction: Quins have been in rampaging form so far this season with a win ratio of eight from eight in all competitions and come the final whistle at the Stoop on Saturday, they will be nine from nine.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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