Speedy Strettle strolls into Saxons set-up

Harlequins 27 Northampton 6
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The Independent Online

Dave Strettle joined up with the England Saxons squad yesterday, hoping to spring as much of a surprise on the forthcoming Six Nations Championship as he did on Stuart Lancaster, coach of the Saxons. "When Stuart saw the Quins team sheet on Friday he rang me and said "I've just seen you're fit, can you join us on Sunday?" Strettle revealed. "I said 'no problem' and we'll see what happens."

This three-try win marked the Harlequins wing's first appearance since the recurrence of a foot injury last October. His customary vitality and ability to shake off defenders were in evidence and he said: "Other lads have been playing more than me, but a lot can happen in a week." Strettle was referring to Delon Armitage's inclusion in the November Tests, and he would also recall his own promotion from a Saxons win away to Ireland A in February 2007, to a Test debut at Croke Park in the same month. The Saxons face Ireland A in Donnybrook on Friday, and Quins back-rowers Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner and Tom Guest are also pressing for selection.

Almost as much has been written about Strettle's foot as David Beckham's or even that big furry one in the Rocky Mountains. The 25-year-old insists there is no inherent weakness: his three lay-offs were due to a stress fracture, an impact injury during England's calamitous Six Nations opener against Wales last year and, in the autumn, a case of the old wound not having healed properly. Nevertheless Strettle is wearing boots with a stiffened sole and the stud under his fifth metatarsal relocated. They also have his nickname, "Stretdog", embroidered on the side. If the design catches on, young Dave may become the first "Stretdog Millionaire".

Quins easily saw off Northampton who have not won away in the Premiership in 11 matches since February 2007, straddling their season in National League One. They missed Dylan Hartley, the rested England hooker, and the tighthead prop Euan Murray, whose rib injury may prevent him playing for Scotland against Wales on Sunday. Gary Botha, the hooker also back from injury, scored Quins' first try after a punishing series of phases after the kick-off. A penalty try early in the second half followed by Jim Evans's 68th minute gallop made for a solid and truthful scoreline.

Harlequins are to announce, probably on Wednesday, the venue of their home Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster on Easter Sunday. It is thought Sky would like a switch to Twickenham, which would make the club a tidy profit, and director of rugby Dean Richards said: "You've got to have faith in [chief executive] Mark Evans to make that decision."

Harlequins: Tries Botha, penalty, J Evans; Conversions N Evans 3; Penalties N Evans 2. Northampton: Penalties Myler 2.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, DW Barry, J Turner-Hall (S Stegmann, 71), T Williams (C Malone, 73); N Evans, A Gomarsall (J Poluleuligaga, 64); C Jones, G Botha, M Ross, O Kohn (J Evans, 57), G Robson, C Robshaw, W Skinner (capt), T Guest.

Northampton: B Reihana (capt); P Diggin, J Clarke, J Downey (C Mayor, 68), S Lamont; S Myler (B Everitt, 71), L Dickson (A Dickens, 71); S Tonga'uiha, P Shields (B Sharman, 70), B Stewart (T Smith, 64), I Fernandez Lobbe (C Lawes, 60), J Kruger, M Easter, S Gray, M Hopley (N Best, 48).

Referee: C Berdos (France).

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