Marcus Smith was due to start the Premiership campaign later on following his involvement with the British and Irish Lions, but Harlequins will have their talisman back sooner than expected
Most Premiership-based players who travelled to South Africa for the British and Irish Lions tour will be stood down until October 18 in order to guarantee a rest period of 10 weeks.
It means the 22-year-old could be available for new coach Tabai Matson for the fourth-round clash at home to Bristol Bears on October 8, a rematch of last season’s Premiership semi-final.
He played a pivotal role in not only turning Harlequins’ campaign around following Paul Gustard’s winter exit, but also surmounting a 28-0 deficit in their semi-final comeback against Bristol.
The fly-half failed to feature in any of the Springboks Tests but did dazzle when he played the full 80 minutes in a 49-3 warm-up win over the Stormers.
New coach Matson has been hugely complimentary of his fly-half and expects Smith to get plenty of attention from international selectors in the months to come.
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Smith will be a prime candidate to receive some minutes during England’s upcoming autumn series, and Matson set his talisman the challenge of sustaining his quality in the long term.
“Clearly he’s quality. I’m not going to say he’s a world-class player yet, but he’s definitely got the potential to go to another level which is exciting for the club. He’s definitely tracking in the right direction,” the Quins coach said soon after arriving at The Stoop for his first pre-season.
“Being a superstar is often based around longevity and we need to see if he can pull on that white jersey and play in it for five or six years, because that’s really where he should be playing.
“It’s a double-edged sword for Quins because on the back of our success you promote people to play for their country, which is what you want.”
Supporters at The Stoop will be overjoyed to see Smith back in action ahead of schedule, although the club has beefed up its cover behind the starting No. 10.
Italy international Tommaso Allan was one of the higher-profile acquisitions by Harlequins during the off-season, having joined the Premiership outfit from Benetton this summer.
Allan, 28, is joined by fellow new signings Huw Jones, Viliami Taulani and Christian Scotland-Williamson, who returns to rugby four years after he left to pursue an American football career.
While excitement is building around those faces new to The Stoop, Harlequins will be most glad to see one of their tried-and-tested stars make a sooner-than-expected return.