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London Irish Away

By Quins4life
April 28 2016

At the start of the season we had two chances of winning silverware, and whilst we have disappointingly fallen away from the Premiership, we have once again made the Challenge Cup Final after 30-6 win against French side Grenoble. We certainly weren’t at our full flowing best, but in general it was a strong display and in my opinion, by far our best since we beat Sarries at the Stoop back in January. We finally saw the team learning how to use Jamie Roberts as both a wrecking ball and also as a key decoy. His line for his try was world class and hopefully it was a glimpse of what is to come in future season. Big game players scores big tries, and he is one of them.

Then in the pack, we saw the key influence of certain players and the returning Horwill and Wallace showed their importance to this side. Horwill was a nuisance at set piece and a beast at the breakdown, whilst Wallace is making it clear that he is integral to this side due to his expertise at the breakdown and his work rate around the pitch. You cannot be upset with such an easy win in a semifinal but I was left with a small feeling of regret. This was because of the return of Nick Evans who demonstrated how much he brings to this side. I thought Botica actually had a good game up to when he got substituted but the introduction of Evans suddenly brought back a confidence and a swagger to the side similar to earlier in the season. If he had been fit during the 6 Nations, I am pretty confident we would be positioned higher in the league. Oh well, injuries happen and we should have been better prepared but losing Evans was a clear blow. 

Anyway as much as I would like to now talk about the final, we do have two more Premiership fixtures remaining and it would be nice to finish the season well, especially as I think it would benefit us hugely if we can go into the final having already qualified for the Champions Cup so that we don’t have that extra pressure on us in the final. First up is an away fixture against our great rivals, London Irish. Our last match against Irish was that horrendous Challenge Cup quarter final that we tried our best to lose after being 30-18 down, but obviously we came back and won 38-30 in the end. Since then, Irish had their huge clash at Kingston Park against Newcastle which many saw as the decider of who would be relegated and unfortunately for Irish they were second best and ended up losing 13-6. This has left Irish 7-points adrift at the bottom of the league and has meant they have to win this game to just have a tiny chance to stay up. With Newcastle playing away to Saracens and that likely to result in Newcastle losing, Irish will have hope they can at least take their fight to the final day of the season. 
Irish will play different side to the team that played us a couple of weeks ago and we are likely to see a side similar to the team picked against Newcastle. 

Irish team vs Newcaslte; Maitland; Lewington, Hearn, Williams, Fenby; Tonks, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika, Lloyd, Symons, Sinclair, Cowan, Narraway (capt).

In the backline, we are obviously going to have to watch Lewington very closely and make sure we don’t kick stupidly to him, and the same applies to Maitland as we saw what he did against us in the Challenge Cup match. I have been surprised that they haven’t used ex-Quins Guest and Trayfoot more often this season as I thought they played very well two weeks ago against us so I won’t be surprised to see one of them involved on Sunday. Also Tikoirotuma is once again fit so he may be another ex-Quins lining up against us this weekend. 

Team Selection
After securing a European cup final place I guess there may be some temptation to rotate the team in preparation for that game, and from what Oshea said post match, I think we may use these weekends to give a break to a few of our key players. But as we still have a chance of top 6 and automatic qualification for the Champions Cup, I would be disappointed to see wholesale changes to the side. In the front row, I would go with Marler, Ward and Collier to start, although with Marler’s latest discretion hanging over him, we may be without him again meaning Lambert starting. In the second row, I would like to see Horwill and Twomey continue their partnership after it showed signs of being back to the standards of earlier in the season. In the back row, I think we will see Robshaw rotated out this weekend with Clifford joining Wallace on the flank, and I would like to see Luamanu given another chance to show us what he is about. Care will continue at 9 definitely, and I think we will see Evans return to the 1st XV to regain his match fitness. Whilst this may be seen as unfair on Botica, it is clear the presence of Evans just adds something extra to this side. In the centres, I think we will see Sloan come in for Roberts as the latter has played a lot of rugby recently and Sloan does not deserve to be totally disregarded after the way he has played this season. Outside him, I would like to see Lowe play again but they may choose to just leave him for the final, meaning Marchant, or even Stanley now he is fit again, could be introduced. On the wings, I think we will see Visser rested as he has been picking up knocks continually in the last couple of games, so we will Chisholm start on one wing with Yarde on the other. Brown looked better last Friday night and I think he will definitely be at 15. 

My team to play Irish; Marler, Ward, Collier, Twomey, Horwill, Clifford, Wallace, Luamanu; Care, Evans, Chisholm, Sloan, Lowe, Yarde, Brown.

Well I know it is never nice reveling in the relegation of other clubs, but wouldn’t it be nice to be the team to officially relegate our historic rivals. Whilst in recent years we may not have been positional rivals, I will never forget Quins losing to Irish in that Premiership semifinal back in 2009. I have never felt so low after a game of rugby like that day so I guess this could be a small remedy for that horrible day. 

But anyway, in all seriousness this should be a game that we should be able to win and it is imperative we do for our hopes of a top 6 finish. Regardless of us winning the Challenge Cup, finishing outside of the top 6 will be very disappointing considering the players we have, especially if we finish behind a side like Sale who do not have the quality we do. Therefore I expect whatever side picked to go all out to beat a side on the brink of relegation. It won’t be easy with London Irish still mathematically able to stay up, but if we play like we did last week against Grenoble I think we will win. Let’s hope this is the start of an enjoyable end to the season so we can go into next season looking forward to our chances. I think this will be a high scoring game as we cannot defend in the Premiership, but we will come out on top. 

Prediction; London Irish 25 Harlequins 32

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