Quins seek successive road victories

Harlequins can make a decisive move away from relegation danger if they beat Leeds in tonight’s Zurich Premiership clash at Headingley.

Harlequins can make a decisive move away from relegation danger if they beat Leeds in tonight’s Zurich Premiership clash at Headingley.

Quins, who recorded their first league away win for two years with victory over London Irish last time out, are climbing towards mid-table safety.

And a second successive triumph on the road would surely banish any lingering doubts about their Premiership safety.

“We are expecting a very tough game against Leeds,” said Quins chief executive Mark Evans.

“They are a fine side, who are very well organised and have not conceded many tries either at home or away this season.

“Both teams will be looking to gain the four points, with Leeds still hoping to finish in the top three. I have no doubt it will be a fierce encounter.”

England prop Jason Leonard returns to the Quins starting line-up instead of Jon Dawson, while Ace Tiatia starts at hooker instead of Tani Fuga and Tony Diprose rejoins the back-row equation.

Leonard’s England Grand Slam team-mates Will Greenwood and Dan Luger also start, just five days after the RBS 6 Nations title-clinching success against Ireland in Dublin.

With the Powergen Cup final between Gloucester and Northampton taking centre-stage tomorrow, the Premiership focus switches to Sunday, and three more important games.

Leicester’s hopes of reaching the Premiership play-offs – and therefore, any chance to make it five league titles in succession – will surely disappear if they do not see-off second-placed Sale Sharks at Welford Road.

But Sharks will take some stopping, especially as Jason Robinson is back from England duty, wearing his familiar number 15 club jersey.

“Taking on the reigning European and English champions in their own backyard is a tremendous challenge, but we are really looking forward to it,” said Sharks coach Jim Mallinder.

“Welford Road is a tremendous place to play rugby and, in front of a big crowd, the atmosphere should be fantastic.

“We know that it will be a hard, physical game because there is a lot riding on the outcome for both sides.

“Leicester have an enviable record at Welford Road, but this is probably a game they need to win if they want to be sure of making the play-offs and giving themselves a chance of retaining their title.

“It is equally important for us, because we have a very difficult run-in to the end of the season with games against Gloucester, Northampton and Wasps lined up after this one.”

Jos Baxendell continues at fly-half instead of knee injury victim Charlie Hodgson, while prop Barry Stewart (hand) and flanker Alex Sanderson (shoulder) are also non-starters.

Bottom club London Irish have skipper Ryan Strudwick back on duty following three months sidelined because of knee trouble, when they tackle fellow strugglers Saracens at Vicarage Road.

An Irish victory would pile further pressure on Saracens, who have lost four league games in succession since beating Leeds on December 29.

Bath, meanwhile, are just two points above Irish, and will be without influential England A flanker Adam Vander (foot injury) for the difficult away clash against major play-off contenders Wasps.

England centre Mike Tindall is also struggling with an ankle problem suffered at Lansdowne Road last weekend, as Bath, like Saracens, target a first league success of 2003.

Wasps, in contrast, have won five of their last six Premiership fixtures, and will be out to avenge a surprise Powergen Cup sixth round home defeat against Bath just before Christmas.

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