Paul Gustard has told his Harlequins players to embrace the “privilege and responsibility” of hosting the first Gallagher Premiership match in front of fans since the coronavirus lockdown. Harlequins will have 3,500 supporters at The Stoop for Saturday’s league clash with Bath as part of the government’s pilot scheme to return fans to sporting contests across the UK.

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Head of rugby Gustard admitted Harlequins must appreciate their fortune in pressing the Premiership’s collective aims to return fans to club matches quickly and safely following a rugby restart in England where The Stoop has also played host to London Irish’s games as they await the move to their new stadium.

“It’s a privilege and responsibility to be the first club to have crowds back in the stands,” said Gustard, reflecting on a season restart that has seen Harlequins win their first two home games against Sale and Northampton with no fans allowed in behind closed doors at The Stoop.

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EPCR chairman Simon Halliday reflects on the format changes for the 2020/21 Champions Cup

“We have to understand that and it’s very exciting for us at the same time. It’s reflective of the progressive nature of the club, and a testament to the work of our staff behind the scenes.”

Rugby officials in England hope the pilot event at Harlequins will pass off safely and accelerate plans to have nearby Twickenham partially re-opened to fans for next month’s Premiership final and the glut of scheduled England games.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw will lead a Quins side against Bath that shows three changes from Sunday’s bonus-point win over Northampton. Glen Young replaces Stephan Lewies at lock, Brett Herron replaces Marcus Smith at fly-half and Ben Tapuai slots in for Paul Lasike at centre.

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Elliott Stooke and Charlie Ewels will pair up at lock for Bath, with boss Stuart Hooper having made five changes for the Quins trip. Miles Reid returns after long-term knee trouble, with Cameron Redpath, Semesa Rokoduguni and Ruaridh McConnochie all slotting into the backline.

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