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Preview: Harlequins v Saracens

Preview: Harlequins v Saracens

Harlequins second row Charlie Matthews insists his side have what it takes to throw the form guide out the window this Saturday and inflict a first defeat of the season on table-topping Saracens.

Saracens’ perfect start to the new season continued with their victory over Leicester Tigers last week – an eighth successive Aviva Premiership Rugby win since the start of the campaign, equalling their previous best start set in 2009/10.

Indeed, Harlequins have won just one of their last 14 matches with Saracens in all tournaments, and with Sarries yet to concede a try away from home they look set to extend their winning run at the Stoop to six games.

But Quins themselves have not lost in any competition on home soil so far this term, and Matthews is adamant if they can nullify Mark McCall’s side at the set piece, they can upset the Aviva Premiership Rugby frontrunners.

“Saracens will be a hugely tough test,” he said. “They are top of the league for a reason, and are a very strong outfit, so we’ll have to be on top of our game to really challenge them this weekend.

“But we are of course at home at the Stoop, which counts in our favour, and it’s a clash we are really looking forward to.

“It’s probably best to ask the fly-halves and the rest of the back-line how we are going to break down their defence, but from my perspective as a second row the set-piece and the scrum will be massive and I’m focused on doing my job there.

“We want to get on top of them early on in those areas, as in their Leicester game last week they of course got all their points from the set piece.

“It’s exciting to think of some of the head-to-heads there and we are really looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Saracens director of rugby McCall is desperate to keep his side’s momentum going ahead of his international stars leaving the squad for the Six Nations.

Sarries are yet to lose in all competitions so far this term, but with a punishing schedule ahead are still a long way from retaining their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown.

He said: “Conor (O’Shea) and I know each other from way back in our playing days, and he has done a wonderful job at Quins and will make it a very difficult job for us this weekend I’m sure.

“They are a balanced side who are good at a number of things; their set-piece has improved a lot with the signings that they’ve made, and although their attack gets a lot of attention it is their defence which is really hard to break down as they are very physical.

“Dave Ward is playing some really great rugby at hooker, their numbers eight, nine and ten we all know about, and obviously they have Mike Brown at full-back so the spine of their team is really strong.

“Our previous results against them are irrelevant. It’s probably the last Aviva Premiership Rugby game we are going to have all our internationals around for, so it’s an important opportunity for us to take advantage of.

“We just want to keep the momentum going. The fixture list has been kind to us so far, and there’s been some great away wins so far this year. It doesn’t get any easier going to the Stoop but we’re in a good place.”
Twickenham Stoop, 3pm
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (9th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Simon McConnell. TMO: Keith Lewis.

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