Collins starts at full-back as Wanderers host Harlequins in semi-final

Tom Collins will start at full-back against Harlequins (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Tom Collins will start at full-back against Harlequins (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Mark Hopley has told the Wanderers they still have room for improvement as they prepare for tonight's Prem Rugby A League semi-final against Harlequins.

The Saints second string won nine of their 10 Northern Conference matches, including a 75-26 demoltion of Wasps along the way.

And they will have home advantage against Harlequins this evening (kick-off 7.30pm).

But Saints Academy head coach Hopley is keen to keep his players on their toes ahead of the final-four encounter.

“The win against Wasps was pleasing, but there are still a lot of areas from that game that need improving," Hopley said.

“I don’t think you can single any game out, really, because we’re now into knock-out rugby and the only game that matters is the one tonight.”

The Wanderers are the reigning champions, having beaten Gloucester at the Gardens in last year's final.

But Hopley said: “It’s a different group to last year.

“We’ve got a few players who were in and around it and we’ve got a very good team spirit and a good culture, but again it’s a different group and it’s a different game.

“It’s a one-off and we just need to focus on ourselves, getting our basics right and hopefully the score will look after itself.”

The Wanderers have been the most prolific scorers in the A League this year with 57 tries, and they have the joint-best defence along with Quins, with both having conceded just 20.

Tom Collins will start at full-back tonight, with the likes of Tom Stephenson, James Grayson and Ehren Painter also getting the nod from the start.

“It’s up to those guys to take their opportunity – we saw Ehren get his chance at Leicester a couple of weeks ago, which was brilliant for him," Hopley said.

“James has been in and out and has been around the England Under-20s set-up as well.

“He’s very competitive and very eager to show what he can do.

“Fraser Dingwall has been very good for us as well – he’s a very good prospect and has a mature head on young shoulders.

“We’ve got a lot of good young lads – Alex Moon is immensely physical and works really hard, but we’ve got a lot of other players who work hard for the team.”

Wanderers: T Collins; Pisi, Dingwall, Stephenson (c), Tuitavake; Grayson, Mitchell; van Wyk, Clare, Painter; Moon, D Onojaife; Ryan, Ludlam, Nutley.

Replacements: Fish, Beesley, Trinder, M Collins, Allman, Kessell, Strachan, Elliott.

Harlequins: Swiel; R Chisholm, Sloan, Cheeseman, Ibitoye; Lang, Waters; Boyce, Crumpton, Swainston; Okafor, Ibuankope; South (c), White, Lamb.

Replacements: Head, Lambert, McNulty, Flashman, Kenningham, Lewis, Hennessey, Murley.