London Irish v Harlequins Preview

Harlequins have already beaten Irish at Madejski Stadium this season: 16-13 in the Anglo Welsh LV= Cup on 31 January, whilst the two teams shared a 9-all tie at the Twickenham Stoop in the Guinness Premiership on 31 October.


London Irish drew 12-all at Newcastle on Saturday but are still winless in their last seven matches in all competitions since the turn of the year. The Exiles most recent win was 23-19 at home to Saracens on 27 December.


Harlequins ended a three game losing run in the Guinness Premiership with their 13-6 victory over Northampton Saints at the Stoop on Saturday.


Harlequins have a superb record at Madejski Stadium, having lost in just two of 11 previous visits against all opponents in all competitions.


After last Saturday’s fantastic victory over Northampton Saints, where Quins displayed the kind of form, passion and belief that saw them go so far last season, Quins will be hoping to carry it forward to Sunday’s game at the Madejski stadium.


Last time the two teams clashed was in the LV= Cup just a month ago, when Quins came away the victors. When Irish visited the Stoop back in October in the Guinness Premiership, the teams had to share the spoils with a 9-9 draw; Quins will be keen to tip the balance of power further in their favour.


Sitting in 7th place, and just two points behind Bath in 6th, Will Skinner and his side will be determined to battle their way into the top six of the Guinness Premiership, but they know it won’t be an easy task.


With an already lengthy injury list, John Kingston is hit once again, this time by the absence of winger, Tom Williams who, although making a return last week to the starting line-up, is once again rested after sustaining another injury against Saints.


His place on the wing will be taken by Sam Smith, who makes his third starting appearance for the club this season. The last time he started was against Irish in January, where his intercepted try helped clinch the victory for Quins. The first choice England U20 winger will be keen to make it three tries from three starts.


With Smith starting, Nils Mordt comes in to cover the space on the bench, which also sees the return of the fans favourite, Tani Fuga, who held his Testimonial dinner on Wednesday night.


Nick Kennedy returns to the London Irish team and partners Bob Casey in the second row as the Exiles make six personnel changes to the team that drew away at Newcastle last weekend. There are three other changes among the forwards, Dan Murphy and Faan Rautenbach come in at loose head and tight head prop respectively. George Stowers moves to blindside flanker as Chris Hala’Ufia returns at No 8.


In the only change to the backs, Ryan Lamb links up with Alfredo Lalanne, the Argentine international scrum half, in a new half-back combination.


“We’re looking forward to returning to Madejski Stadium on Sunday afternoon,” said Toby Booth, London Irish Head Coach. “The playing surface there suits the way we want to play the game. We want to get the ball in hand, play with some style and provide a good spectacle for all in the stadium.


“Matches with Harlequins are often a bit of an arm wrestle and I’m sure this one will be no different. We will be looking to our forwards to make a big impact both in the set pieces and in the tackle area where we know our contact skills will have to be at their best if we are to succeed in influencing the outcome of the match,” Booth concluded.


London Irish v Harlequins
Date: 28th February 2010
Kick off: 15:00
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes (76th Premiership game)


Teams


London Irish


15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Elvis Seveali’i; 12. Seilala Mapusua; 11. Peter Hewat; 10. Ryan Lamb; 9. Alfredo Lalanne; 1. Dan Murphy; 2. Davi

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