Harlequins skipper Chris Robshaw believes his side need to showcase a high level of mental toughness if they are to get the better of second-place Sale Sharks in their Premiership Rugby return on Friday night. 

Over five months since the last ball was kicked in the competition, the two sides will face off in the first bout of Round 14 action, with Quins eager to kickstart a somewhat inconsistent campaign so far. 

The 2011/12 champions lie one place shy of the Champions Cup places in seventh, and know they will have to be at their best to see off the title-chasing Sharks - who triumphed 48-10 in the reverse fixture - in the teams’ behind-closed-doors clash. 

The absence of supporters at The Stoop will be a strange experience for all involved, and 34-year-old Robshaw is confident the team that adapts best to the unusual environment will get over the line. 

“It’s going to be a weird feeling to play without any fans,” he said. “So much of the energy comes from the crowd - they spur you on, help you get up off the floor that little bit quicker and allow you to work that little bit harder. 

“There’s going to be a big element of mental strength during the game, and as captain it’s up to me and the rest of the leaders in the squad to make sure the boys are in the best shape possible to face a very strong Sale side. 

“I think it’ll be about who can make the correct decisions under that pressure, who can execute and be clinical in the game. I’m hopeful that it’ll be a really good match. 

“We’ve had a long time off and it’s just great to be back. We’ve been training for about six or seven weeks now, so we’re fit and raring to go - as all the teams in the league will be, including Sale.”

Mike Brown and Nathan Earle return to Harlequins' matchday squad together for the first time in 489 days, while the pair will be joined in the backline by debutant wing Chris Ashton. 

The starting XV also features the return of centre Joe Marchant for the first time this year, after he joined New Zealand Super Rugby side the Blues mid-season, and summer signing Scott Steele is named on the bench. 

While head coach Paul Gustard is buoyed by the strength of the squad he has been able to name, he is also wary of the challenges that Sale pose, with his opposite number Steve Diamond handing debuts to new signings Manu Tuilagi and Sam Hill. 

He said: “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 need to make sure we play with urgency and intent and deliver a performance our friends, family, fans and our club can be proud of.”