Tabai Matson confirms Harlequins’ England stars are ready for Saracens Showdown return

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson confirmed that his returning England internationals are available for selection in the Showdown 3 against Saracens this weekend.

Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant and Jack Walker were all in Steve Borthwick’s final Six Nations England squad, while Tommy Allan featured for Italy.

Quins face a huge derby against Saracens on Saturday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and will likely need their best 15 on display to beat the league-leaders.

With questions over whether international players would be ready to return a week after the Six Nations finale, Matson had a reassuring message.

He said: “No one’s coming back injured, they’ve all come back in pretty good shape so all available.

“Our schedule fits pretty well – availability this weekend and then a final-16 in Europe, then depending on whether we push on for that or not, the rest availability will happen in a couple of weeks’ time.”

That will no doubt include fly-half Marcus Smith, who returned to England after initially being released for their preparations ahead of playing France, only to then play and lose that game 53 – 10.

The brief hiatus did allow Smith to feature for Quins in their 40 – 5 thrashing of Exeter Chiefs.

Matson said: “He came back for the Big Game and he bossed us, and he’s exactly the same guy he was when he came back for that Exeter game two weeks ago.

“Even against France, although the result was poor, I thought he was pretty good in a team that was battling.

“So he’s bounced back in and been keen to be involved in this match, he knows it’s a crunch game for the club and he wants to contribute.

“He’s coming with that same energy he always does, through the leadership, it’s that energy that makes him such a good player.”

The cub’s captain, Stephan Lewies was also happy to see the internationals returning.

He said: “This week has been about welcoming our English players back, they’ve added a lot of excitement to our group.

“They’re some of the best players in the country and in the world so it’s been about getting them up to speed.”

Lewies was hugely complementary about the England squad as a whole, not just the Harlequins contingent, conscious of the Sarries representatives too.

He added: “They also have the English players back.

“England have quality players. Come World Cup time, if they get a few small things right they’ll be a dangerous team.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see England in a World Cup final.”

The Quins captain was also excited to be playing such strong opposition.

“It’s a massive challenge,” Lewies said, “a world-class outfit, they’ve won many trophies, playing at a big stadium.

“They know all about big occasions and big games.

“If you’re a bit off on the day you can get really hurt against them, but having the opportunity to go out there and put in a performance and turn them over, that’s exciting in itself.”

But both sides have something to play for, with the visitors chasing the play-offs despite finding themselves in eighth place.

Matson said: “We have no illusions in what winning and losing means to us in our aspirations to push on to the play-offs.

“Saracens standing in the way makes it very difficult but that’s sometimes what you need – a good challenge.

“We’ve got to play well for the next six weeks and if we do that we definitely have a shot.”

The two London sides face off in Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, in front of what is expected to be a near-sell-out crowd.

Find the rest of our Showdown coverage here.

Feature image credit: Keith Williams under CC license

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