Aviva Premiership: Harlequins v Leicester Tigers preview

Last Updated: 17/04/14 6:43pm

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Sky Bet

Harlequins' charge towards an Aviva Premiership play-off berth encounters a stern challenge on Friday evening as third-placed Leicester Tigers visit The Stoop.

Conor O'Shea's side have won three of their last four outings and their latest victory over Sale Sharks saw them move fifth in the table, just five points behind Bath, who currently occupy the final knockout spot.

Victory for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in their last nine Premiership outings, including seven straight wins, will all but secure them a semi-final place for the 10th successive campaign.

Nick Evans, Danny Care, Sam Smith and Maurie Fa'asavalu all crossed for Quins as they recorded an impressive 27-12 bonus-point victory to usurp the Sharks last Friday night, keeping their Premiership hopes well and truly alive.

Meanwhile, Leicester triumphed 27-15 over London Wasps at Welford Road as England centre Manu Tuilagi bagged a brace, while Niki Goneva and David Mele also crossed the whitewash as they closed the gap on league leaders Northampton Saints.

Such is the strength of the two sides - both of whom arrive at Friday's crucial fixture in red-hot form - and the number of intriguing head to heads, that a prediction is far from obvious to make.

In a display of faith in his squad, Harlequins head coach O'Shea retains the same match-day 23 that returned an impressive salvo at the AJ Bell Stadium last Friday.

With just four games remaining - including a final day clash against Bath - Quins centre Tim Molenaar insists every game is must-win at this stage.

"We are in a bit of a pressure cooker at the moment, every game has to be a win so there is that pressure there for sure," he told the club's official website.

"But this is why you play the game and if you want to win the Premiership then you have to beat everybody.

"If we can beat Leicester and Bath then we might get the psychological edge over them for later in the play-offs so while we have made it difficult for ourselves it could ultimately prove to be a good thing."

Changes

Meanwhile, there are changes from Richard Cockerill as he welcomes captain Toby Flood and Anthony Allen back into his starting XV for the trip to the capital.

Flood starts at fly-half while Allen returns at centre after missing out on last weekend's bonus-point win.

There are changes in the front row where international props Marcos Ayerza and Logovi'i Mulipola return and Neil Briggs comes in to start at hooker.

Geoff Parling continues his return after shoulder surgery with a place in the 23 after playing 20 minutes as a replacement in the win over Wasps.

Just nine points separate fifth-placed Quins and Leicester ahead of their latest meeting and Cockerill admits they are not yet guaranteed a semi-final spot.

"The chase for the top four places is very tight and we've just got to keep picking up points," the Tigers director of rugby told the club's official site.

"We haven't got a semi-final spot yet so we're as hungry as ever to get there.

"Quins are in good form, they played very well in their games against Stade Francais and Sale Sharks in the last two weeks, but we've been in good form too and we have to get our own game right going down there."

Harlequins: 15 Brown, 14 Lindsay-Hague, 13 Molenaar, 12 Turner-Hall, 11 Smith, 10 Evans, 9 Care; 1 Marler, 2 Ward, 3 Sinckler, 4 Matthews, 5 Robson, 6 Wallace, 7 Robshaw (capt), 8 Easter.
Replacements: 16 Buchanan, 17 Lambert, 18 Doran Jones, 19 Guest, 20 Fa'asavalu, 21 Dickson, 22 Botica, 23 Chisholm.

Leicester: 15 Tait, 14 Scully, 13 Tuilagi, 12 Allen, 11 Genova, 10 Flood, 9 B Youngs; 1 Ayerza, 2 Briggs, 3 Mulipola, 4 Slater (capt), 5 Kitchener, 6 Gibson, 7 Salvi, 8 Crane.
Replacements: 16 Hawkins, 17 Stankovich, 18 Balmain, 19 Parling, 20 Matera, 21 Mele, 22 Williams, 23 Morris.

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