Northampton Saints v Harlequins Preview

The match sees two of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s in-form teams go head-to-head as Northampton Saints who are in third place and have lost just once in the league since September hosting the table-topping Harlequins.


Northampton Saints have won their last three games in all competitions, and have lost just once at Franklin’s Gardens in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season: 13-14 to London Irish on 17 September.


Harlequins continue to top the Premiership table, seven points clear of chasing Saracens, following their 11-9 victory at Exeter on New Year’s Eve. Quins have won their last eleven away encounters in all competitions since Bath beat them at The Rec on 16 April.


Harlequins won 26-13 when the two sides met in round two, but have not achieved a season’s double over the Saints since 2006/07. Quins have won on two of their last four visits to Franklin’s Gardens.


Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that the Saints players have a point to prove tomorrow night.


“We were really disappointed earlier in the season when we went down to Quins,” he told SaintsTV this week.


“We didn’t play well at all, they did and deservedly won the game.


“They have real quality throughout their squad and most of their players are playing well, too. They are a tough side to beat and we have to concentrate on our own game and maintaining our performance for a full 80 minutes.


“Perhaps we have over-tried at times recently but that isn’t a bad thing. We know what we want to do and if we get our basics right, keep solidity in the set-piece and show good ball retention then the rest will hopefully come.


“We’ve been building a little bit of momentum of late and while we were a bit frustrated by some of our European form, winning against Castres and Bath at home and then picking up a bonus-point at Newcastle last week shows we are in good form and hopefully we can carry that into this Friday’s game.”


Harlequins have brought back some familiar faces in the pack as the team play their third game in 10 days.


The starting backline remains the same as that which started at Sandy Park, with Rory Clegg continuing at fly half for Nick Evans.


The forward pack sees Chris Brooker restored to the starting line up at hooker, continuing the rotation policy, with Joe Gray on the bench.


James Johnston joins Brooker alongside Joe Marler in the front row. Olly Kohn returns from injury, partnering George Robson in the second row, with Nick Easter returning after missing the Exeter victory. Tom Guest continues his return from injury on the bench after starting his first game since September against Exeter.


The remainder of the bench sees Mark Lambert covering the front row with Joe Gray and Tim Fairbrother. Tomas Vallejos will look to impact from the bench after two bruising performances in five days through the Christmas period. Richard Bolt, Benjamin Urdapilleta and Sam Smith provide the cover for the backline.


The Bookies have given Harlequins a huge six point start for this match as they are away from home even though they lead the Premiership.


Date : Friday 6th January
Match : Northampton Saints v Harlequins
Venue : Franklin’s Gardens
Kick Off : 7.45pm
Live on: ESPN HD
Referee: Dave Pearson (157th Premiership game)


Teams


Harlequins:


15. Mike Brown , 14. Tom Williams , 13. Matt Hopper , 12. Jordan Turner-Hall , 11. Ugo Monye , 10. Rory Clegg , 9. Danny Care , 1. Joe Marler , 2. Chris Brooker , 3. James Johnston , 4. Olly Kohn , 5. George Robson , 6. Chris Robshaw (c) , 7. Luke Wallace , 8. Nick Easter


Replacements:16. Joe Gray , 17. Mark Lambert ,

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