Gallagher Premiership action returns after a five-month break on Friday evening as Harlequins take on Sale at Twickenham Stoop.
The league was placed into hibernation in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the remaining nine rounds will resume with the second-placed Sharks travelling to take on Quins.
Sale, who will give a debut to England centre Manu Tuilagi following his move from Leicester, trail leaders Exeter by five points in a title race that also features Bristol, Northampton and Wasps.
Friday is fast approaching and we just can't wait 😎#PremRugby is officially back and Round 1️⃣4️⃣ has some fascinating fixtures to offer 👀
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) August 11, 2020
Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond believes all teams are effectively starting from scratch
“It’s been that long since we played that there’s no point looking at what we did in our last games,” he said.
“The sides that manage rest will be the sides that do their best over the next few weeks, as long as there are no Covid outbreaks.
🇿🇦 Lood makes his full debut
💪 Manu & Hilly in the middle
🙋♂️ Fafster is back in the mix!
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) August 13, 2020
“It’s fantastic to finally be back into the Premiership, we have trained for a long time now and everyone at the club is chomping at the bit to get started again.”
Sale have assembled a powerful team full of high-quality South Africans including Friday’s full debutant Lood De Jager, with the arrival of Tuilagi enhancing their prospects of bulldozing through opponents.
Chris Ashton will make his debut for Quins against the club he left for Twickenham Stoop in March and elsewhere Paul Gustard’s team are strengthened by the return of Mike Brown from a knee injury and the end of Joe Marchant’s Super Rugby sabbatical.
🔢 Confirmation of your Quins to take on Sale Sharks tomorrow night.
🔮 Any predictions for the game?
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) August 13, 2020
Gustard said: “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 can only control our own performances – if we perform well and get enough wins that will take care of itself.
“We’re not aiming to squeeze into Europe, we’re aiming to go as far as we can this year. The first step is Sale.”