Harlequins flanker James Chisholm says players are “mad keen” for the restart of the Gallagher Premiership and is viewing the busy schedule ahead as a positive thing for clubs. After a 159-day break owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the season resumes on August 14 with seventh-placed Quins hosting second-placed Sale, and the final is scheduled for October 24.

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There are nine rounds of matches to complete and clubs are set to play midweek fixtures.

Chisholm said: “It’s a good one to come back to. It’s just a massive challenge for us.

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“We’re still in the hunt to make the top four. Sale are a great team who did one on us up there earlier in the year (they lost 48-10 at Sale in January).

“The players are just mad keen to get going. Everyone’s looking forward to kicking it off next week.”

Asked about the relentless nature of the schedule ahead, Chisholm said: “To be honest, I think it’s a good thing. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good thing if you played every minute of every game, but I think it’s a really good thing for the squads.

“There’s a great opportunity to rotate the squad, mix the squads up. All these clubs have got great strength in depth and we’re no different. You can dive deep in most positions and still come up with good Premiership players.

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“I think it is going to be really good for our club and all the clubs in the Premiership.”

While Chisholm has no doubt the experience of playing behind closed doors will be “a bit weird”, he has stressed “everyone is hungry” to perform well.

“I think most people understand it’s all going to be empty and a bit weird and you’re not going to get a buzz off a crowd, but ultimately I think the hunger is there to win,” the 24-year-old said.

“It (no crowd) will be a real shame, especially at the Stoop on a Friday night, but ultimately it’s just rugby, it’s stripped it right back to what it is. Everyone’s hungry to perform and win so ultimately that is your motivation.”

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The game could see wing Chris Ashton make his Harlequins debut following his arrival in March after leaving Sale.

Chisholm said: “Chris Ashton is very, very fit, works very, very hard. He’s come in and sort of pushed himself and pushed the lads around him.

“There’s quite a lot of new guys that have come in and they’ve fit in really well, and everyone’s hungry for it.”

Chisholm – who has described Quins’ Agen-bound winger Gabriel Ibitoye as “a fantastically talented lad and a big loss” – was also asked about talk of the possibility of ring-fencing the Premiership.

And he said: “In terms of relegation, that is up to the powers that be. I’ve got some good suggestions I think if they want to listen to me, but I’m not sure they will.

“It’s up to them, how they want to build the game and where they want the game to go – if they think ring-fencing is the best option, that’s up to them and they should do it, but if it’s not, they need to decide on the model they’re happy to keep ploughing money into to ultimately create great players and a great game.”

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