Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard says he is “delighted” with his side's growth as he prepares for Sunday's clash with Bristol Bears.

Quins bounced back from back-to-back defeats to edge out Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs after a last-gasp penalty try at The Stoop last weekend.

They now travel to Ashton Gate with hopes of progressing up the table, but Gustard is expecting a tough battle against Pat Lam’s Bears.

“It was great to get an important win against Exeter, who have yet again this season showed consistency in performance and strength in all aspects of their game," he said.

“Last week is, however, last week and it’s crucial that our entire focus and effort has been directed to this Sunday’s opponents. 

“I was delighted with the team’s critical reflection from Exeter on Monday, which once again demonstrated the mental and emotional growth we are making.”

Gustard has made two changes to his starting XV from last week’s victory, with Luke Northmore and Brett Herron coming into the back line for Travis Ismaiel and Marcus Smith, who starts on the bench after passing his mid-week HIA protocols.

Despite sitting in seventh position, Harlequins trail the play-off spots by just three points and if results go their way, could find themselves sitting in a top-four place when the weekend ends.

“We look forward to the challenge at Ashton Gate against a Bristol side that are well organised with a highly talented squad including some world class talent in their team,” added Gustard.

“Marcus Smith has been unable to train with the team yet this week after a heavy knock in the fixture against Exeter Chiefs. Marcus has undergone, and now passed all HIA protocols, and we are excited with the impact he can make when he takes the field with his electric feet and running game. 

“So, Brett Herron will start at ten. During training this week he has controlled things beautifully in mixed weather and deserves the opportunity.”

Chris Ashton, who was signed this week from Sale Sharks, is not available for selection with the former England winger still recovering from a knock. 

Harlequins: 15. Aaron Morris, 14. Luke Northmore, 13. Tom Penny, 12. Paul Lasike, 11. Gabriel Ibitoye, 10. Brett Herron, 9. Danny Care (vc); 1. Mark Lambert, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Simon Kerrod, 4. Glen Young, 5. Matt Symons, 6. James Chisholm (vc), 7. Chris Robshaw (c), 8. Alex Dombrandt 

Replacements: 16. Jack Musk, 17. Nick Auterac, 18 Will Collier, 19. Tevita Cavubati, 20. Will Evans, 21. Niall Saunders, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Francis Saili