Preview: Bristol vs Harlequins

Date published: February 9 2017

Full-back Jason Woodward returns to Bristol's starting line-up for the first time since January when they host Harlequins on Friday.

The New Zealander – who has missed four weeks with a head injury – is one of fifteen changes for the Ashton Gate clash.

Bristol welcome back Will Hurrell and Tom Varndell in the back-line, while Olly Robinson is named in the pack to skipper the side.

"It’s fantastic to be back in Premiership action this week and you can sense the anticipation around the training ground during the team’s preparations this week,” said head coach Mark Tainton.

"Throughout the European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh period, we were open about the fact that our priority and main focus was achieving Premiership survival.

"We’ve tailored our training and team selection to ensure we are as prepared as we can possibly be to meet the challenge of Quins head on."

New Zealand scrum-half Alby Mathewson is listed among the replacements and could make his Premiership debut from the bench.

Meanwhile, there are six changes to the Harlequins side which played Sale Sharks at The Stoop in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last week. 

Ross Chisholm, Marland Yarde and Tim Visser form the back-three, with Joe Marchant named at outside centre. Chisholm starts in place of Aaron Morris, who has failed his concussion protocol following last week’s match.

In the forwards, James Horwill continues as captain, with James Chisholm and Dave Ward starting within the back row.

Among the replacements, Tyler Gendall will look to make his first Premiership appearance for the club.

Speaking ahead of the match, Harlequins director of rugby, John Kingston said: "Friday sees the start of a crucial period of matches in the Aviva Premiership during the Six Nations.

"We obviously have a number of players away on international duty and our fair share of injuries, but the group have prepared extremely well and are ready for the challenge that an ever improving Bristol will present."

Form: After securing only four league points from the first ten rounds of Premiership Rugby, Bristol have now added nine more points in their last three games. Bristol won 28-20 in their most recent game at Ashton Gate in the competition but have not won two in a row at home in Premiership Rugby since 2007/08. All thirteen of Harlequins games in Premiership Rugby this season have been won by the home side with the Londoner’s only victory on the road in the competition in the last twelve months being 3225 at relegated London Irish in round 21 last season. Harlequins have won their last seven encounters with Bristol in Premiership Rugby since their 20-33 reversal at Memorial Stadium in October 2006, although Bristol did win both fixtures in the European Cup played in December 2007.

The teams:

Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Jack Wallace, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson (c), 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Ryan Bevington 
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Thretton Palamo, 23 David Lemi

Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Matt Hopper, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 George Merrick, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Owen Evans 
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Matt Shields, 18 Tyler Gendall, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa

Date: Friday, Frebruary 10
Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Sainsbury