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O'Shea: Ward can fill Quins' front row void
Harlequins hooker Joe Gray’s misfortune is team-mate Dave Ward’s gain, and he is champing at the bit to fill the void in the front row left by the injured England Saxon.
Gray, a member of England coach Stuart Lancaster’s second string last season, hobbled off in Friday’s defeat to former club Northampton Saints.
The 25-year-old was given a relative boost this week when he was told he would be sidelined for 12 weeks with damaged knee ligaments, when it first appeared he would be missing for the entire season.
It leaves O’Shea with only Rob Buchanan – a tourist with the senior national squad in Argentina over the summer – and former Cornish Pirate Ward as his only two fit hookers for the opening months of the campaign.
The latter made only one substitute appearance in the top flight last term, but played a key role in his club’s LV= Cup-winning campaign.
He had arrived at the Stoop on the crest of a wave having starred for the Pirates as they lost to London Welsh in the Championship play-off final in 2012.
And O’Shea was disappointed to lose Gray, he felt 28-year-old Ward could add an interesting dimension to his side.
“Dave wasn’t involved as much as he would have liked last year, because Joe and Rob [Buchanan] played so well,” he said.
“But he has been brilliant around the club and he is a very popular member of the squad. He played very well in our A League and LV= Cup winning teams.
“Over the summer we committed to getting him more involved this season and now he has his chance.
“He can add another dimension to our attack and can do things other people can’t. I’m excited to see him play.”
Gray joined Quins from Northampton in 2010 and featured in all of Quins’ 22 top flight clashes last term – starting 20.
And O’Shea was looking forward to having him back sooner than expected.
“Joe gave his knee a good yank on Friday and having sent him to see Andy Williams – one of the best surgeons around – he said he did not need to do anything,” he said.
“We really thought it was going to end his season, but thankfully he should be looking to ready for Gloucester in November.”