England centre Joe Marchant will be allowed to remain in New Zealand playing for the Blues while his parent club Harlequins follow the return to play protocols aimed at getting the Gallagher Premiership back in action in the middle of August.

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Marchant has spent 2020 in New Zealand with the Blues thanks to an agreement between the two organisations and is due to return on July 1, allowing him to take part in the opening rounds of the all-New Zealand tournament which begins this weekend with the Blues hosting the Hurricanes at Eden Park.

While Marchant has been abroad the Covid-19 lockdown was put in place along with New Zealand’s ban on travel. Quins general manager Billy Millard admitted that Marchant’s July 1 return date could yet be pushed out depending on how Harlequins’ training restart progresses.

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“We are in pretty heavily dialogue with Joe and the Blues. He went over there to get an experience and get a taste of it. The main reason is that he can bring that confidence and experience back to us.

“He will start some games and he is such a good guy and has a good relationship with both clubs. There is no point in getting him back here if there is a tripwire and he comes back into stage one. The two weeks quarantine that is coming in is a big part of it as well and it definitely is a case of plus two. He is an integral part of our backline and its flexible. It just depends where we are with our training.”

Marchant has labelled the competition as being “on a different planet” after moving to the Blues from Premiership side Harlequins for the 2020 season. Marchant, capped three times by England, is on a six-month sabbatical with the Auckland-based club.

He starred for Leon MacDonald’s side as they won five of their seven Super Rugby matches before the tournament was suspended by SANZAAR, but he will now have the opportunity to play alongside new signing Dan Carter in the Blues’ star-studded backline.

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