Aviva Premiership weekend preview: Chris Robshaw suffers again as injury rules him out of semi-final

Quins alarm bells are ringing as their title goes on the line against a formidable Leicester

It has not been the best of weeks for the England captain Chris Robshaw – or the best of months, or the best of springs. If the futility of his own heroic lone stand against the rampant Welsh on Grand Slam day in Cardiff did not alert him to the possibility of a sharp downturn in fortunes, a couple of wounding defeats with Harlequins must have set the alarm bells ringing. Then came the savage body blow of British and Irish Lions rejection, followed by omission from the red rose tour of Argentina and, yesterday, confirmation that he would miss his club’s biggest domestic game of the season.

Unlucky? You could say. But for this torrent of bad luck, Robshaw would have had no luck at all. The flanker would have given pretty much anything to play for Quins in this afternoon’s Premiership semi-final at Leicester: primarily because his club’s status as reigning national champions is on the line, but also because he is in sore need of a positive vibe from somewhere. Failure to recover from a three-week-old ankle injury denies him his shot at solace.

Not that Welford Road is the most sympathetic venue for visiting players craving spiritual uplift. Leicester may have suffered some recent upheaval of their own – on Monday, their highly regarded attack coach Matt O’Connor accepted the top job at Leinster; on Tuesday, their revered full-back Geordan Murphy declared that he had played his last game of competitive rugby – but this is the time of year they love best, internal hassle or no internal hassle. They have a formidable look about them this weekend, if not an unbeatable one.

All six of their Lions contingent – Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs behind the scrum; Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft in the thick of it – start today’s game, so the Londoners will need every last ounce of physical resilience. If James Johnston, their departing tight-head prop, can give them parity at the set-piece and allow Danny Care and Nick Evans to dictate the tempo from half-back, a turn-up is not out of the question. But when they beat the Tigers in last year’s Twickenham final, Robshaw was easily the most influential figure. Some international coaches may feel they can do without him over the coming weeks, but the back-roomers at Quins see it very differently. To them, his absence is a very serious issue indeed.

Tomorrow’s semi-final between Saracens and Northampton will be played out on the artificial surface at Allianz Park, but there is nothing remotely fabricated about the rivalry between the two clubs. The fractiousness of their relationship, out in the open for all to see three seasons ago, is not quite as public these days, but few supporters of either team are holding their breath in anticipation of a declaration of mutual respect.

Saracens, the 2011 champions, have yet to lose a game at their new home in Hendon, while Northampton’s record against top-end opposition is about as far from reassuring as it is possible to get. But there will be a lot of emotional energy surging through the Midlanders: their celebrated props, Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati, are desperate to end their Premiership careers with the taste of a Twickenham showpiece on their tongues and are guaranteed to set about Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens with a rare relish at scrum time.

Despite the assertion of the Saracens rugby director Mark McCall that “both sides have players who can turn a match in an instant from any part of the pitch”, this contest is likely to turn on close-quarter supremacy. Leaving aside the props, there will be two fizz-bomb hookers in Schalk Brits and Dylan Hartley and a couple of madly competitive flankers in Will Fraser  and Tom Wood. Just the ingredients for a winner-take-all scrap between rivals with an axe to grind.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea