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Rugby News

Preview | Tigers go to Harlequins

Leicester Tigers return to Gallagher Premiership action on Saturday with a trip to defending league champions Harlequins.

This is a first league game since the win at Exeter Chiefs at the end of March, with Tigers reaching the semi-finals of the Premiership Cup and quarter-finals in Europe over the last few weeks.

Quins head into Round 23 in third place in the league table, on 68 points, with Saracens on 72 and Tigers on 80.

Ahead of the trip to Twickenham, Stoop, Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs said: “We are looking forward to the challenge and know it will be a big one.

“They are the reigning champions, playing great rugby and we come up against them at their home in front of what I am sure will be a big, loud crowd. 

“You just need to look at their squad and you can see that they have threats all over the park.

“There is no time to switch off or they will punish you. We will have to be on it from start to finish.”

Five of the last six games between these teams have been decided by margins of six points or fewer, with Tigers winning the home leg 16-14 in December with a try from Harry Potter and 11 points from fly-half George Ford.

Youngs and Ford are paired at half-back for the trip to the capital, with Matt Scott coming into the team at centre. Hanro Liebenberg is named as captain in the back row where Sean Jansen makes his first Premiership appearance for the club.

Ellis Genge and Dan Cole are among the replacements alongside Harry Wells who is in line for his 150th first-team appearance for Tigers and 100th in the Premiership.

Harlequins club captain Stephan Lewies returns after injury as one of two changes to the team following last weekend’s European clash with Montpellier. Luke Wallace steps into the starting line-up in place of the injured Will Evans, as one former Tigers back-rower replaces another. Quins go for a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench.

Head coach Tabai Matson said: "It is always a fantastic arm wrestle when teams have contrasting styles and the way that Leicester play and the reason they have been so successful is that they are very good at what they do.

"They are very pragmatic and it will be a tough day for us if we aren’t on top of our own performance. We’re looking forward to playing the Harlequins Way against the league leaders. It will be a fantastic challenge for us.”

Overall the clubs have met on 209 previous occasions, with Tigers winning 117 to 82 by Quins and 10 games drawn.

Quins have won their last five games in Premiership rugby after losing their previous three and chase six in a row for the first time in the regular season since 2011, when they won 10 on the bounce.

They have lost just three of their last 19 home games in the league, picking up try bonus points from 13 of their 15 victories in that period.

Tigers have won six of their last seven matches in the Gallagher Premiership.

The visitors will be in the club’s white, black and orange change kit at The Stoop, with Quins in their traditional quarters.

Referee is Wayne Barnes, the most experienced official in Premiership rugby, in charge of his 257th top-flight fixture. 

Harlequins will dedicate Saturday’s match to former player Seb Adeniran–Olule and Seb’s Foundation, set up by his mother following his tragic early passing in May 2016.

Head coach  Matson said: "This team and club is incredibly proud to be celebrating Seb’s Foundation. This is a cause close to all our hearts and we cannot emphasise enough what a fantastic job the Foundation and Seb’s Mom does raising funds to give young people opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had."

There is live coverage of the game with BT Sport, or follow the updates on Matchday Live on the Tigers website and app, with full report and reaction afterwards.

Round 23 in full:

Friday – Bristol Rugby v Gloucester Rugby, Newcastle Falcons v London Irish

Saturday – Bath Rugby v Northampton Saints (3.00pm), Harlequins v Leicester Tigers (3.00pm), Wasps v Worcester Warriors (3.00pm)

Sunday – Saracens v Exeter Chiefs (3.00pm)