New Springbok signing Andre Esterhuizen is set to make his Harlequins debut on Wednesday after getting selected on the bench by Paul Gustard for the club’s ‘away’ Gallagher Premiership match versus London Irish at The Stoop. 

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Capped eight times by the Springboks, the 113kg, 6ft 4in midfielder signed for the English top-flight club last January for an unspecified period of time from the Sharks after he failed to make the cut for last year’s World Cup finals in Japan. 

Esterhuizen, 26, now comes into the Harlequins replacements as they attempt to pick up the pieces following last Saturday’s home defeat to Bath in front of nearly 3,000 people at Premiership Rugby’s first pilot event allowing fans back into English stadiums.

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Former Scotland international player and coach Ian McGeechan talks about the British and Irish Lions

Returning to the starting XV, fly-half Marcus Smith will look to surpass the Gallagher Premiership 500 points mark – the young playmaker is currently sitting on 491 points to date. Aged 21, only former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will have reached this Premiership milestone at a younger age. Smith will also become only the third Harlequin of all time to score 500 points in the Premiership.

Harlequins boss Gustard said: “We are looking for a positive response to the game at the weekend where we didn’t maximise or convert the opportunities we created. We have reflected on the game honestly and openly in training this week and have picked a team we feel are motivated and determined to perform against a strong Irish side.

“We are immensely pleased to name academy product George Hammond for his first Premiership appearance amongst our game changers alongside new signing Andre Esterhuizen who is also in line to make his first appearance.”

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Irish, meanwhile, have rewarded Jack Cooke for his performances since the restart by handing him the captaincy of a squad that includes 13 academy representatives. “Local derbies are always a special occasion in any sport, and that is no different with our games against Quins,” said director of rugby Declan Kidney.

“This is a unique situation where we are the home team, playing in The Stoop, using the away dressing rooms. So, there is plenty of spice there even before the game starts.”

LONDON IRISH: 15. James Stokes; 14. Dan Norton, 13. Ross Neal, 12. Phil Cokanasiga, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Jacob Atkins, 9. Ben Meehan; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Matt Cornish, 3. Ollie Hoskins, 4. Ben Donnell, 5. Chunya Munga, 6. Jack Cooke (capt), 7. Josh Smart, 8. Isaac Curtis-Harris. Reps: 16. Ben Atkins, 17. Harry Elrington, 18. Lovejoy Chawatama, 19. George Nott, 20. Izaiha Moore-Aiono, 21. Caolan Englefield, 22. Brendan Macken, 23. Tom Homer.

HARLEQUINS: 15. Aaron Morris; 14. Cadan Murley, 13. Luke Northmore, 12. James Lamg, 11. Nathan Earle; 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Scott Steele; 1. Santiago Garcia Botta, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Simon Kerrod, 4. Dino Lamb, 5. Stephan Lewies, 6. Tom Lawday, 7. Chris Robshaw (capt), 8. James Chisholm. Reps: 16. Joe Gray, 17. Marc Thomas, 18. Will Collier, 19. George Hammond, 20. Archie White, 21. Martin Landajo, 22. Andre Esterhuizen, 23. Ross Chisholm.

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