Chris Ashton is set to make his Harlequins debut versus former club Sale when the Gallagher Premiership resumes its 2019/20 season on Friday after a record 159-day layoff. It was March 2 when former England winger Ashton abruptly left Sale after what was described as a “difference of opinion” with director of rugby Steve Diamond.
After agreeing to terminate his contract early, Ashton was then quickly signed by Paul Gustard’s Quins but has yet to play for the London club due to the suspension of the season for the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he will now intriguingly get his chance to show what he can do in the Quins colours when lining out against his former club five months after his sudden departure.
Aside from Ashton’s debut, other notable Harlequins selections are Mike Brown and Nathan Earle who will return to matchday squad together for the time in 489 days.
Centre Joe Marchant also returns for the first time this year, having joined New Zealand Super Rugby side the Blues mid-season.
? Mike Brown & Nathan Earle return while Chris Ashton will make his debut on Friday night.
— Harlequins ? (@Harlequins) August 13, 2020
Off the bench Harlequins will unleash the first of the club’s summer signings, with scrum-half Scott Steele donning the No22 jersey. Having opted for a 6-2 split on the bench, Harlequins boss Gustard said: “We are delighted to be hosting the first match of the restarted Gallagher Premiership at The Stoop.
“It has been a long five months without the sport we love and we are delighted to have the privilege of kicking off the competition once more.
“It has been an unusual mid-season pre-season with limitations and moderations, but the time has also allowed us to regain a healthy squad, with injuries hampering our progress and continuity in the first half of the season.
“Sale are a dangerous team with a host of international players and they will always be a tough test. We respect them and are well aware of the humbling we took at the AJ Bell earlier in the campaign.
“We need to make sure we play with urgency and intent and deliver a performance our friends, family, fans and our club can be proud of. We can’t wait.”
HARLEQUINS (v Sale, Friday)
1 – Joe Marler (201 Harlequins appearances)
2 – Scott Baldwin (11)
3 – Simon Kerrod (20)
4 – Stephan Lewies (13)
5 – Matt Symons (41)
6 – James Chisholm (89)
7 – Chris Robshaw (292, captain)
8 – Alex Dombrandt (44)
9 – Martin Landajo (15)
10 – Marcus Smith (79)
11 – Nathan Earle (23)
12 – James Lang (59)
13 – Joe Marchant (85)
14 – Chris Ashton (0)
15 – Mike Brown (327)
16 – Joe Gray (153)
17 – Santiago Garcia Botta (15)
18 – Will Collier (170)
19 – Dino Lamb (26)
20 – Tom Lawday (12)
21 – Will Evans (13)
22 – Scott Steele (0)
23 – Paul Lasike (22)
'As a black player, you get pigeon-holed. You’re either an athlete and you’ll get stuck on the wing or he’s big, let’s stick him in the second row' @Harlequins wing @natenate174 talks about gaining coaches' trust, his ACL, BLM & more, with @heagneyl ???https://t.co/qxaJxTQeXM
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 2, 2020
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