Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Under-strength Quins head to Italy aiming to maintain perfect record

Harlequins will aim to preserve a perfect European Challenge Cup record this season when they tackle Calvisano in Italy on Saturday.

Even though Quins have rested star names like Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter, Danny Care and Nick Evans for the Pool Three encounter, they should still be far too strong against opponents whose last Challenge Cup home game saw them ship 50 points to Cardiff Blues, before losing 64-0 in Montpellier.

Quins have already accounted for the Blues and Montpellier in bonus point fashion, but head coach John Kingston insists there will be no complacency this weekend.

"We've had an excellent start with 10 points from our first two games, but the reality is there are six games to get through in this pool stage," he said.

"We know a slip-up over the next two games (away and home against Calvisano) could end up really costing us and our quarter-final ambitions, so hopefully we can make these games count.

"If we can continue to perform at the level we showed in our first two games, the results will look after themselves. It's good to keep momentum going, and we have really developed a winning feeling."

Summer signing Winston Stanley makes his Quins debut, partnering Matt Hopper in midfield, while there is also a first start for flanker Archie White in a pack that contains seven past or present members of the club's academy.

Quins still parade plenty of experience, though, with Scotland wing Tim Visser and former Australia captain James Horwill both featuring, together with the likes of scrum-half Karl Dickson and flanker Luke Wallace.

London Irish, bottom of the Aviva Premiership and still without a league point, face a key Pool Five appointment with Edinburgh at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

Grenoble's bonus-point success at Agen on Thursday took them top of the group, and Irish know they realistically cannot afford to slip up on home soil.

Shane Geraghty starts at fly-half for the Exiles, while there are also call-ups for flanker Conor Gilsenan, his back-row colleague Ofisa Treviranus, centre Johnny Williams and wing Andrew Fenby.

Sale Sharks travel to Stade Pierre-Antoine on Saturday, where Castres await, having put themselves back in Pool Two contention by beating Pau last month.

Sharks boss Steve Diamond fields a strong side, including Brian Mujati, Jonathan Mills and Magnus Lund up-front, and he said: "It will be a difficult contest out in France. They are lying sixth in the Top 14, so we've got to go out and be competitive."

Pool Two leaders Newport Gwent Dragons, meanwhile, include their Bath-bound Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau for Saturday's Rodney Parade appointment with Pau.


From Belfast Telegraph