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Harlequins rugby director impressed as 70,000 expected for Twickenham clash

John Kingston has hailed ticket sales of more than 70,000 as "seriously impressive" as Harlequins prepare to host Aviva Premiership rivals Gloucester in Big Game 9.

Quins' annual trip across the road from The Stoop to Twickenham has once again produced a bumper response.

And Quins rugby director Kingston is relishing the start of a busy Christmas and New Year schedule that will see his players facing three games in 12 days.

"The coming three matches against Gloucester, Worcester and Sale Sharks will very much shape our season going forward," he said.

"And it is absolutely crucial that we take advantage of the two home matches, which includes Big Game 9.

"It is always an unbelievable occasion. Twickenham is a spectacular stadium to play in, and to get more than 70,000 in attendance to a club match is seriously impressive.

"Last year's match was an incredibly exciting one, and I am sure both sides will be doing the best they can to make it an occasion which suits the grand nature of Twickenham Stadium."

Quins welcome back former England captain Chris Robshaw for his first club appearance since England's autumn international series ended earlier this month, while prop Joe Marler clocks up a century of appearances.

Gloucester, level on points with Quins and chasing a top-six place that awaits Tuesday's winners, show five changes from the side recently beaten by European Challenge Cup opponents La Rochelle.

Centre Billy Twelvetrees, scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, prop Paddy McAllister, lock Mariano Galarza and flanker Ross Moriarty all return, but Gloucester will be without midfield back Mark Atkinson for several weeks due to what the club have described as a significant hamstring injury.

Gloucester return to Twickenham a year after they drew 39-39 with Quins, and rugby director David Humphreys said: "We've known that this period over Christmas is going to provide some pretty unique challenges in terms of a 10-day break (after La Rochelle) into a five-day break and then into a six-day break.

"It will test the depth of our squad and means there won't be a huge amount of time spent on the training pitch. It has been more about getting ready for Harlequins, and then recovering and getting ourselves best prepared physically and mentally for Northampton and Worcester.

"It (Big Game 9) is a wonderful occasion to be part of, something a lot of our players enjoyed last year.

"We have players with a lot of international experience who have played in big games, so they will be looking forward to getting back to Twickenham.

"Last year was a pretty spectacular game, with 10 tries in total. I'm not sure this year will be a similar game, but will hopefully have a different result."

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