Quins saw their New Year’s Day fixture against Bristol cancelled because the club could not field a front row owing to players isolating, while Irish have not played since December 20, when they beat Pau in the Challenge Cup.
Unsurprisingly, both directors of rugby, Quins’ Paul Gustard and Exiles’ Declan Kidney, referred to seeing the “glass half full” after their breaks.
There has been discussion about the possibility of bringing in “circuit breaker” pauses in sporting seasons, but Kidney did not seem too keen on that idea as his squad gets back on their feet. His players are “at different stages of health” and some “had been hit hard with symptoms, others not”.
“We are hoping to be coming out of it, so we are hoping we have had our circuit breaker,” he said. “All clubs will be in a different position and I don’t envy the people having to make the decisions.”
Kidney said Irish have had to be “inventive” with training because players had to spend time apart.
“Players have been doing what they can do individually in their homes and have come back in good shape,” he said.
“The enthusiasm is palpable within the group. We have to make sure we click against a very good side.”
Harlequins welcome back England’s Joe Marler and Joe Marchant, while Scott Steele and Matt Symons also return to start.
Danny Care has been given the week off and Andre Esterhuizen remains banned.