Saturday 24 March 2018

O’Shea tells Quins’ players to rise to challenge against Glousester

CONOR O'Shea – the former Irish national and coach of Harlequins'- has warned his players that their stunning Heineken Cup victory over Toulouse "counts for nothing" unless they back it up by beating Gloucester tomorrow.

Quins' success in France almost four weeks ago kept them on course for an automatic quarter-final place from Pool Six.

They are now just one point behind the French heavyweights, who host Connacht tomorrow and then travel to Gloucester next Friday, while Quins entertain Gloucester before visiting Connacht.

Aviva Premiership leaders Quins have lost three of their last five games in all competitions after enjoying a long unbeaten start to the campaign, and rugby director O'Shea said: "It has been a pretty tough run for the guys.

"(But) we have come through it top of the Premiership table and we are playing for a place in the last eight of the Heineken Cup.

"As a group, we are getting used to playing massive games each week, and this is part of our learning curve.

"The victory in Toulouse was a seminal moment for the club, but it counts for nothing if it is not backed up on Saturday. Gloucester represent a huge challenge to us, as they are developing one of the most talented squads in the country."

Cardiff Blues can take a grip on Pool Two if they beat London Irish at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow and Edinburgh lose against Racing Metro in Paris tonight.

"Irish play a strong brand of rugby, a physical brand of rugby, and depend heavily on momentum being generated by their forwards," Blues backs coach Gareth Baber said.

"There is an added bit of spice with a Welsh team playing an English team, but what that does is focus the mind."

Leicester captain Geordan Murphy, meanwhile, has predicted "an arm wrestle" when the Tigers fight to keep alive their Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes in Belfast tonight.

Pool Four leaders Ulster stand two points above Leicester with just two group games left, while French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne also have realistic last-eight hopes, lying just a point behind Murphy's men in third.

If Ulster win at Ravenhill by more than seven points, then the Tigers are effectively looking at pool stage elimination for only a fifth time in 15 European campaigns.

"We are going to have to put in a very good performance up front, be defensively sound to stop them scoring tries and kick our goals," full-back Murphy said.

"It will be an arm wrestle, and hopefully we get a bit of luck."

Winning is the only option for Welsh challengers the Ospreys when they host Pool Five opponents Treviso tonight.

The Ospreys are currently six points adrift of group leaders Saracens, largely as a result of suffering back-to-back defeats against the reigning English champions last month.

Elsewhere, twice European champions Munster could secure qualification from Pool One if they beat Castres tomorrow, while Scarlets host Northampton in the same group, Pool Three strugglers Bath visit Montpellier and Clermont face Aironi in Monza.

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