Will Evans: ‘There are more intimidating grounds than Saracens’, Harlequins back row says
|Venue: StoneX Stadium Date: Saturday, 11 June Kick-off: 13:30 BST Coverage: Updates on BBC local radio and live scores on the BBC Sport website|
Harlequins back row Will Evans said he could “name a few more intimidating grounds” than Saracens’ stadium ahead of their Premiership semi-final.
Sarries host their London rivals at StoneX Stadium on Saturday for a place in the final at Twickenham on 18 June.
Quins are the reigning Premiership champions, having beaten Exeter in last year’s final after coming back from 28-0 down to beat Bristol in the semis.
The 10,500-seater stadium is sold out for Saturday’s game, Sarries say.
Flanker Evans, 25, has made only five appearances for Quins this season because of injury but was one of nine first-team players to sign new contracts in January.
“We know it’s not going to be an easy task this weekend. They’re a very hard team to beat at home but every single one of us, all 23, are going to play and believe we can do it,” he told BBC Radio London.
The two sides have faced each other three times this season, twice in the league and also in the Premiership Rugby Cup, with Sarries coming out on top on each occasion.
The north London club followed up a 29-22 comeback victory at The Stoop with a 28-21 Premiership Rugby Cup win at the StoneX Stadium, in which Theo McFarland scored two tries, and a 19-10 home win in the league.
‘They’re too good to give up a 28-0 lead’
Harlequins have been the comeback kings of the Premiership this season, but Evans says his side must stay within touching distance of the league’s second-best side, due to Saracens’ strong kicking game.
“They’re too good to give up a 28-0 deficit [like Bristol did last year],” he said.
“We’ve spoken a lot about that, to stay on their coat tails in the first half and don’t let them build up too much of a lead.”
Coach Nick Evans said Quins will stick to the expansive and expressive playing style that has taken them to the final four.
“We believe in who we are and how we operate, we’re not perfect,” he said.
“To be the only team to make it back to the semi-final from last season, a lot of people doubted us.
“We’ve done this season with a lot of our best players away with England.
“We’re really proud that we’ve been able to work our way through this season.”
‘We don’t need to speak, we know’
The winner of Saturday’s game will face Leicester Tigers or Northampton Saints in the final at Twickenham.
Harlequins beat Exeter 40-38 in last year’s final, via two late Louis Lynagh tries, to win their first Premiership title since 2012.
Saracens are back in the post-season finale following a season in the Championship, having been relegated for persistent salary cap breaches.
The high-flying north Londoners finished the season as the league’s top-scoring side, with 769 points – 122 more than Quins.
Winger Max Malins played a big part in that with a league high 16 tries, with Quins’ Cadan Murley registering 14.
Flanker Ben Earl, the league’s top tackler, was named the Premiership’s player of the season on Tuesday.
The Sarries star recorded 331 successful tackles in the regular season – 10% more than any other player – and his team were comfortably the most efficient tacklers in the Premiership.
England and Sarries hooker Jamie George says the players do not feel like they have a point to prove.
“The message from the start of the week has been ‘We don’t need to speak, we know’,” he said.
“We don’t want to play the game or build it up too early. We’re aware of how important the game is, how much we want it and the history of the game.
“All I need to focus on this week is bringing the best out of myself because I know that everyone else is doing the same and when that’s there, it’s contagious.”