Harlequins are out to prove they are the capital’s top dogs against London Irish this weekend and Paul Gustard is preparing his side for a tough test.

Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership clash at Twickenham Stoop will be the first game of 2021 for both sides after Covid-related postponements last time out and the Quins head of rugby believes his side will feel the benefit from the break.

“We are very much looking forward to the fixture against London Irish,” Gustard said.

“We were frustrated with our inability to complete the fixture against Worcester last weekend, but on the plus side the team have had the opportunity to be refreshed.

“The club took the early and strong decision to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our players and our staff, as well as our opposition, in shutting down all training for a seven-day period.

“We come into this game fit and raring to go.

“London Irish is obviously a local derby game, and a team littered with top overseas international talent. We know we will have to be on top of our game on both sides of the ball to get the result we want this weekend.”

Gustard has made six changes to the side beaten 27-19 by Bristol Bears on Boxing Day, with lock Matt Symons featuring for the first time since November.

England pair Joe Marler and Joe Marchant also come in, while former London Irish star Scott Steele is handed a first start of the season at scrum-half.

“Matt Symons has been one of our key players over the last two seasons and we look forward to seeing the impact he makes,” Gustard said.

“We are also pleased to see Louis Lynagh retain his spot on the right wing following an impressive first start against Bristol.”

Quins sit sixth going into the weekend with two wins from their five matches to date, while Irish are 10th having won just once so far this season.

Last season’s derbies brought one victory apiece, with Irish winning 29-15 at the Stoop in February before Quins earned revenge with a 38-15 triumph in September in a match also played at the Stoop due to the Exiles preparing to move to the Brentford Community Stadium.

Harlequins team to play London Irish: Mike Brown, Louis Lynagh, Joe Marchant, James Lang, Cadan Murley, Marcus Smith, Scott Steele; Joe Marler, Scott Baldwin, Wilco Louw, Matt Symons, Glen Young, Tom Lawday, Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt (captain).

Replacements: Elia Elia, Jordan Els, Simon Kerrod, Hugh Tizard, Archie White, Martin Landajo, Ben Tapuai, Aaron Morris