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'It's a little disappointing... you want the teams fully loaded'

By Liam Heagney

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Harlequins assistant Nick Evans has acknowledged how some fans might feel short-changed by how the Gallagher Premiership fixture planners have scheduled both games versus London rivals Saracens at a time in the season when both clubs will be denied the use of players in Eddie Jones’ England squad.

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The reigning Premiership champions welcome the newly promoted Saracens to The Stoop this Sunday for a contest in which Harlequins don’t have Joe Marler, Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith or Joe Marchant available for selection as they are all currently with the England squad in Jersey ahead of the Autumn Nations Series.

Saracens will similarly be deprived of four of their main players due to England selection, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Max Malins all off-limits to Mark McCall for a first clash with Harlequins since an August 2020 fixture when the suspended 2019/20 season was restarted.   

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Harlequins and Saracens has long been one of the most keenly anticipated fixtures whenever they meet in the top flight and they are currently two of the 2021/22 season’s form teams, each winning four of their matches so for to respectively occupy second and third place on the table behind early pace-setters Leicester.

Sunday’s match is a sell-out, a testament to the attacking rugby both teams have been playing in recent weeks, but this type of clash clash minus the England contingent will, unfortunately, be repeated in February as the return fixture at the StoneX is scheduled to go ahead on the same weekend that Jones’ Test team are in Italy for the second round of the Six Nations. 

Attack coach Evans admitted he understood the frustration of the people who want to see Harlequins and Saracens going at it at full strength, but he hopes this quirk in the fixtures planning for 2021/22 can be placated at the business end of the season by the two teams potentially meeting at full strength in a semi-final or a final. “We just have to work really hard to try and meet them [Saracens] in the semi-finals, I guess, or the final,” he told RugbyPass.

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“Look, I guess it is a little disappointing because you want the two teams to be fully loaded going at each other but it is the nature of the beast. We look at the schedule, it is on the board in our room, and the England boys are away for a lot of it and there are a lot of games that we are not going to have them.

“That is just part and parcel. We go week-to-week and this week we are going to play Sarries and we are going to lose four of our guys and four other guys are going to have to come in and fill their spots and they are going to have to do really well.

“They [Saracens] are going to lose four guys and they are going to have the same thing. I get it from a fan’s point of view, a neutral’s point of view and a journalist’s point of view that we want to see the teams at their best but we are just going to have to work really hard and earn the right to be in a semi-final to meet them there or in a final, but that is a long way away yet.”

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'It's a little disappointing... you want the teams fully loaded'

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