Saracens v Harlequins, Aviva Premiership, December 5
Quins out to leapfrog Sarries
December 3, 2010
Saracens were narrowly beaten by Gloucester last weekend © Getty Images
Saracens will be intent on forcing their way back into the play-off places when they take on Harlequins at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon.
Sarries slipped from third to fifth on the back of their 19-13 defeat away to Gloucester last weekend and the subsequent news that director of rugby Brendan Venter is to return to South Africa at the start of next year did little to lift spirits within the club.
Harlequins, by contrast, are on a high after a resounding 51-18 victory over Leeds on Sunday and go into this weekend's game knowing that a victory would lift them above their hosts in the Premiership table.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Winger David Strettle notched twice in his first two appearances of the season but has subsequently failed to build on that hugely exciting start to his Sarries career. He will be desperately hoping to get back on the try-scoring trail on Sunday.
Saracens - Team News: Sarries welcome back USA Eagles ace Chris Wyles and Fijian star Michael Tagicakibau from international duty. Tagicakibau will replace the injured Kameli Ratuvou in midfield, while Wyles will start at fullback. Ernst Joubert slots back in at No.8 after recovering from a knee injury and he will be joined in the back row flanker Jacques Burger. There is also a recall for lock Mouritz Botha.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Chris Robshaw is a seemingly indefatigable flanker, as evidenced by the fact that he is the only player in the league to have made more than 100 tackles this season, 102 to be precise. Almost impossible not to notice him given that he seems to pop up everywhere, making crunching hit after hit.
Harlequins - Team News: Quins stick with the same side which routed Leeds last weekend but there are seats on the bench for returning international stars Nick Easter, Danny Care and Gonzalo Camacho.
Key Battle: Sarries No.10 Owen Farrell is a 19-year-old playmaker of immense promise but this weekend he will be pitting his wits against former All Blacks fly-half Nick Evans, who is already the finished article. Farrell could be treated to something of a lesson in the art of fly-half play this weekend.
Trivia: Harlequins have not won an away game in the Premiership this year. Their last win on the road came at Leeds almost exactly 12 months ago.
Stats: Quins' 51-18 victory over Leeds at the Stoop last weekend was only the second time that they have ever scored 50 points or more in a Premiership came.
"We would like to thank Brendan for his outstanding contribution through the past two seasons, establishing a culture of honesty, discipline and work ethic that is now enshrined within the DNA of our club, and we look forward to his continuing involvement in the months and years to come." - Saracens chairman Nigel Wray pays tribute to outgoing director of rugby Brendan Venter
""We could have had more but I thought we played with real tempo and aggression." - Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea on his side's demolition of Leeds
Fantasy: Harlequins' George Lowe is the fourth most prolific centre in this season's ESPNscrum Fantasy Game, with 43 points. An impressive stat given that unlike the top two, Olly Barkley and Billy Twelvetrees, he is not a goal-kicker.
Prediction: Saracens have been surprisingly inconsistent this season, particularly at home. However, they should have just enough forward power to scrape past an improving Quins side.
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