Premiership: England props Joe Marler and Ellis Genge return as Harlequins and Bristol Bears clash

Loosehead prop Joe Marler has returned from injury to take his place in Harlequins’ XV for their game against Bristol Bears at Twickenham Stoop.

Marler sustained the problem in Quins’ 39-31 Champions Cup defeat to the Sharks, which meant he missed the victory over Racing 92 a week later.

However, he returns to the starting line-up with player of the match from the previous contest, Fin Baxter, dropping to the bench.

A front-row trio of Marler, Jack Walker and Wilco Louw are reunited and backed up in the engine room by George Hammond and Irne Herbst.

The back-row sees Archie White return to the starting line-up at blindside flanker in place of the injured Jack Kenningham, joining Will Evans and Alex Dombrandt at the back of the scrum.

The backline remains unchanged, with Danny Care and Tommy Allan looking to control proceedings from the half-back department in what is set to be a thrilling encounter between two attacking sides in South West London.

Head coach Tabai Matson said: “You might get sick of me saying it, but this game against Bristol in particular is really important. You get a result and we have the chance to create a bit of space between ourselves and the teams in fifth and sixth. In the larger scheme of things, this would be a really important victory.

“We’ve discussed that with the senior players and they’re fired up to get back into the Premiership. Being at home in front of a sold-out Stoop, we want to deliver a good performance.”

Six changes for Bristol

Meanwhile, Ellis Genge and Magnus Bradbury return to action for Bristol when they make the trip to West London.

Pat Lam makes six changes from the side that beat Zebre Parma in the European Challenge Cup, with Rich Lane, Sam Bedlow, Andy Uren and Max Lahiff all named in the starting XV.

Luke Morahan will make his final appearance in a Bears shirt in the festive clash, while Joe Batley, who signed a long-term extension with the club this week, continues in the second-row.

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Form: Harlequins have won their last four fixtures in Premiership Rugby since their 19-27 defeat at home to Leicester on 16 October. Harlequins’ other loss at the Twickenham Stoop in the Premiership this season was to Saracens on 17 September. Bristol Bears drew their most recent league fixture 26-all with Leicester Tigers on 3 December but are without a win in the tournament since their home success over London Irish on 24 September. The Bears have won only once away from home in Premiership Rugby since October 2021: 23-8 against Wasps on 17 September. Harlequins have won their last three fixtures against Bristol whilst the Bears’ only victory at the Stoop since September 2001 came behind closed doors on Boxing Day 2020.

Prediction: Harlequins by 12

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Nick David, 14 Cadan Murley, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (c), 7 Will Evans, 6 Archie White, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 George Hammond, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 George Head, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Oscar Beard

Bristol: 15 Rich Lane, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Steven Luatua (c), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Batley, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Jay Tyack, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Ioan Lloyd

Date: Tuesday, December 27
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Kick-off: 16:15 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Sara Cox, Simon Harding
TMO: Stuart Terheegee

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