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Aviva Premiership semi-final preview: Saracens take on Harlequins at Allianz Park

Last updated: 16th May 2014  

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Harlequins must shake off their wretched record against their London rivals as they prepare for an Aviva Premiership semi-final showdown with Saracens at Allianz Park.

Conor O'Shea's side's lone victory in their last 10 fixtures against Saracens was 24-19 at Wembley Stadium in March 2012.

And despite reaching three successive Aviva Premiership semi-finals their only victory came at home to Northampton in 2012.

However Harlequins enter the match having found a rich vein of form, with the only defeat in their last seven matches in all tournaments coming at Northampton in the semi-final of the European Challenge Cup in April.

While their record against Saracens might leave something to be desired - losing both matches to them this season - there are some omen which bode well for the visitors.

The two sides have met only twice before in a knock-out tie, both were played at the Stoop, and both won by Harlequins in the fourth round of the Pilkington Cup in 1994 and the quarter-final of the same competition three years later.

Change

Saracens are playing in a fifth successive Aviva Premiership semi-final - a second at Allianz Park - but have not been victorious at this stage since beating Gloucester at Vicarage Road in 2011.

Their only defeat on home soil in the Premiership this season came at the hands of London Irish in round 13.

Saracens captain Steve Borthwick will make his final Allianz Park bow for the hosts and will be joined by Mouritz Botha in the second row.

Elsewhere in the pack, Mark McCall - fresh from collecting the Director of Rugby of the Season award at Thursday's Premiership Awards - brings Matt Stevens in at tighthead prop, while Jacques Burger starts in the back row alongside Scotland captain Kelly Brown and England No.8 Billy Vunipola.

In the backs, Neil de Kock partners Owen Farrell at half-back and Brad Barritt teams up with Marcelo Bosch in the centres, while Alex Goode starts at full-back with David Strettle and Chris Ashton occupying the wing berths.

Nick Easter, who starts at No 8, will become the Harlequins' most capped playerin Saturday's semi-final encounter, surpassing Ceri Jones' record of 232 appearances .

O'Shea has made just one change to the side which edged out Bath in the winner-takes-all play-off showdown last weekend.

Luke Wallace has recovered from an injury to start at blindside flanker in place of Maurie Fa'asavalu who picked up a knock during last week's victory.

Saracens: 15 Goode; 14 Ashton, 13 Bosch, 12 Barritt, 11 Strettle; 10 Farrell, 9 De Kock; 1 M Vunipola, 2 Brits, 3 Stevens; 4 Borthwick (capt), 5 Botha; 6 Brown, 7 Burger, 8 B Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 George, 17 Barrington, 18 Johnston, 19 Hargreaves, 20 Wray, 21 Wigglesworth, 22 Hodgson, 23 Wyles.

Harlequins 15 Brown; 14 Williams, 13 Molenaar, 12 Turner-Hall, 11 Monye; 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 Collier, 19 Kennedy, 20 Guest, 21 Dickson, 22 Botica, 23 Smith.

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Forthcoming Aviva Premiership Fixtures
TimeFixture
Aviva Premiership
Saturday 22nd November
Aviva Premiership
15:00London Irish vs Bath
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13:00Saracens vs Northampton
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Friday 28th November
19:45Bath vs Harlequins
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16:30Exeter vs Saracens
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13:00London Irish vs Gloucester
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14:00Sale vs Exeter
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14:00Wasps vs London Irish
Friday 26th December
15:00London Irish vs London Welsh
Saturday 27th December
14:00Sale vs Leicester
15:00Bath vs Exeter
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Saturday 3rd January
15:00Exeter vs Gloucester
15:00Leicester vs Bath
15:00Northampton vs Newcastle

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Phil Edwards

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