This Sunday (22nd February) at 6.00pm, NEC Harlequins take on local rivals London Wasps at the Causeway Stadium, Wycombe in what is sure to be a typical 'London Derby'; a closely fought, bruising game between two teams who are both in form.
Last seasons Zurich Premiership Champions Wasps have won 13 of their last 14 matches, and last suffered a defeat in the Premiership away to Leicester Tigers on 8th November 2003. However, they are suffering from an injury crisis of Quins proportions having announced yesterday that up to ten players are currently in the treatment room. That said, it is possible that a number of these players, such as fly half Alex King and full back Mark Van Gisbergen, will be fit to take the field on Sunday evening.
Notwithstanding these injury concerns, Wasps are the form team of the moment having qualified for the quarterfinals of the Heineken Cup following a tremendous away win in Perpignan and they are sure to put up a tremendous fighting performance in front of their own supporters.
Quins have a few issues of their own in terms of player availability. Both Will Greenwood and Jason Leonard are representing England against Scotland in the Six Nations Championships, while at Under 21 level we have Chris Bell, Adrian Jarvis, Henry Barratt and Tom Parker all away.
In addition to the above and following our last Premiership game against Saracens (7th February) there are injury concerns with regards to Paul Burke (neck) and Jim Evans (shoulder), while on Monday evening (16th February) Rob Jewell picked up an ankle injury in the Zurich A League victory over Wasps and is also doubtful for Sunday's encounter.
As with all 'derby' games, current form counts for very little and the fact that Quins have won their last three league encounters against Wasps will only provide the Wycombe outfit with a greater incentive to perform well on Sunday.
It will be a close affair, but a game that both teams will be desperate to win as they look to sustain their respective challenges in the Zurich Premiership.
London Wasps: 15. Mark Van Gisbergen, 14. John Rudd, 13. Fraser Waters, 12. Mark Denney, 11. Tom Voyce, 10. Peter Richards, 9. Rob Howley (Capt.), 1. Craig Dowd, 2. Trevor Leota, 3. Will Green, 4. Martin Purdy, 5. Richard Birkett, 6. George Skivington, 7. Ian Clarke, 8. Mark Lock
Replacements: 16. Tim Payne, 17. Henry Nwume / Simon Shaw, 18. Ben Gotting, 19. Tom Rees, 20. Harvey Biljon, 21. Shane Rosier, 22. Ayoola Erinle
NEC Harlequins: 15. Gavin Duffy, 14. George Harder, 13. Mel Deane, 12. Andy Reay, 11. Ugo Monye, 10. Andy Dunne, 9. Simon Keogh, 1. Mike Worsley, 2. Tani Fuga, 3. Jon Dawson, 4. Karl Rudzki, 5. Roy Winters, 6. Pat Sanderson, 7. Andre Vos (Capt.), 8. Tony Diprose
Replacements: 16. Ace Tiatia, 17. Laurent Gomez, 18. Ceri Jones, 19. Bill Davison, 20. Simon Miall, 21. Scott Bemand
22. Josh Taumalolo
* 13th September 2003, Zurich Premiership, NEC Harlequins 33-27 London Wasps, The Stoop
* 10th May 2003, Zurich Premiership, London Wasps 21-25 NEC Harlequins, Causeway Stadium
* 17th November 2002, Zurich Premiership, NEC Harlequins 27-14 London Wasps, The Stoop
* 26th April 2002, Zurich Premiership, London Wasps 16-6 NEC Harlequins, Loftus Road
* 22nd September 2001, Zurich Premiership, NEC Harlequins 33-13 London Wasps, The Stoop
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.