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Harlequins hoping home comforts can help kick-start campaign

Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston hopes the reassuring surroundings of Twickenham Stoop will ignite the club's season.

Three Aviva Premiership matches have yielded a nervy victory over Bristol and defeats at Sale and Exeter and Quins know that a loss to Saracens on Saturday will nudge them further on to the fringes of the title race.

It will be Quins' first match at home this season after their opener was staged across the road at Twickenham and they are hoping for a repeat of their fractious victory over the champions in January.

"It's our first match at Twickenham Stoop and the double winners are coming to town, so the focus is right there for us," Kingston said.

"We've got some excellent players and yes Saracens have been settled for a while now, like we were a few years ago, and they have a lot of confidence and belief in what they're doing, but the crowd will make a big difference.

"This fixture has been feisty recently because the reality is that Quins have not been where we wanted to be over the last couple of years, whereas before that we've been in competition with them for a good while.

"These are two clubs who aspire to be at the right end of the competition, but you could say the games are feisty when Saracens play Northampton or Leicester against us.

"When you're playing those high-octane games, it's very physical and very competitive.

"The guys know each other well and a lot of them have been playing international rugby against each other, which adds an edge."

Harlequins welcome back centre Jamie Roberts and prop Joe Marler from injury, but have lost Jack Clifford to ankle surgery for 10 weeks.

Saracens have chosen to rest South Africa great Schalk Burger, while Chris Ashton begins his 13-week suspension for biting Northampton prop Alex Waller.

Waller is present in Saints' front row for their showdown with unbeaten Wasps at Franklin's Gardens, although centre Luther Burrell is missing as he recovers from concussion.

Northampton were overpowered 27-12 at Allianz Park last weekend and assistant coach Alan Dickens is expecting Wasps to offer a different threat.

"It was physical against Saracens, but hopefully we've looked after the boys and we're ready to go again," Dickens said.

"You look at Wasps' backline and they're dangerous, posing a different proposition to Saracens, who are more direct.

"We were disappointed to lose to Saracens - the boys were gutted because we thought we were in a position to win the game."

In Saturday's two other fixtures, Newcastle travel to Gloucester and Worcester host Sale.


From Belfast Telegraph