Paul Gustard claims the youthful side he played in Harlequins’ 26-19 Champions Cup defeat against Clermont can provide the blueprint for the club going forward.

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With Quins already out of the qualification reckoning heading into their final Pool Three game, Gustard named a host of youngsters and saw his side battle gamely against an experienced Clermont outfit.

While the hosts ultimately came up short at the Stoop, Gustard believes Quins showed more than enough to suggest they are building towards a bright future.

“We have played against a side with 15 internationals and almost 400 caps today. I think we had four internationals in our squad,” Gustard said.

“It is the next step for us to start growing our own internationals again and have the next period where Harlequins are going to be a big force.

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“Brett Herron and Niall Saunders are both 22. Tom Penny is a young lad, Luke Northmoore is 21 and so is Gabriel Ibitoye, so we have a really youthful team.”

Number eight Alex Dombrandt was the most impressive Quins player as he marked a man-of-the-match performance with a try.

The 22-year-old was a force with the ball in hand and repeatedly broke the Clermont defensive line as he drove the home side forward.

He is in contention for an England call-up and did his chances of making the Six Nations squad, which will be announced on Monday, no harm with Eddie Jones in the crowd.

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Gustard refused to say whether he believes Dombrandt will make the cut, but was full of praise for a player he believes has a unique set of skills.

He said: “The kid runs lines from nowhere, has a feel for the game and a beautiful soft set of hands. It was another brilliant performance and Alex can do things no other back row in the country can.

“We would like to hope he will be picked for England and it is important that we keep getting players into the international reckoning.”

While the performance provided plenty of positives for Gustard, he will have been frustrated to see Northmore limp off late on.

The centre scored a fine first-half try and Gustard admitted his injury was a blow to a Harlequins squad which is already carrying a number of walking wounded.

“He injured his ankle and it is a concern. We have five centres out injured and he will be the sixth,” Gustard said.

“We have Tom Penny in on injury dispensation today and other than that Luke is the only centre we have, which is a challenge.

“We keep getting these setbacks and that can make you or break you, but that is your choice.”

– AssociatedPress

Jim Hamilton discusses all the rugby news of the week, with particular focus on the Six Nations and Japanese league:

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