6:00am Friday 16th May 2014
Director of rugby Conor O’Shea reckons Harlequins’ refusal to be written off will see them make a mockery of their “underdogs” tag in the Premiership semi-finals.
Quins beat Bath 19-16 at the Stoop on Saturday to claim fourth spot in the table and a play-off trip to Heineken Cup finalists Saracens tomorrow.
Reformed England rugby tearaway Danny Cipriani is among those to have predicted a Northampton Saints v Saracens final on May 31 – although his heart would like to see a Quins team, featuring pals Jordan Turner-Hall, Danny Care and Ugo Monye, topple the favourites in north London on Saturday.
O’Shea’s men have battled a succession of crippling injuries to make a late surge for the top four and the Stoop chief is confident his men have the tenacity not just to beat Sarries, but also lift the title for a second time in two years.
“We are rightly the underdogs, but we are not going there to roll over and get our tummies tickled,” he said.
“This squad has a huge number of competitors who have proven they can play under the pressure of cup rugby in the past few weeks.
“Everyone wrote us off, but we have got to the play-offs and we are not simply there to make up the numbers.
“We believe we can go on and win it.”
He added: “The general public will probably never know the amount of physical pain some of this squad have gone through to get themselves on the pitch.
“Six weeks ago I told the players they had to win all their games to qualify for the play-offs and the have reacted to that challenge because they are fierce competitors.”
Nick Easter will break Ceri Jones’s 232 professional appearance record for the club tomorrow, having equalled that mark against Bath.
The evergreen 35-year-old has played some of his best rugby this season and has featured in all but 26 minutes of his side’s Premiership and European rugby campaigns.
Centre Tim Molenaar, signed as injury cover in October, has started each of his side’s past six games – taking his appearance tally to 18 in a campaign in which he would not have expected to feature that much but for the club’s crippling injury list.
Fly half Nick Evans last week paid tribute to his contribution this term, saying he had been a rock solid in back line ravaged by injury.
But O’Shea insisted his men would give no excuses for failure this weekend.
“Tim has been fantastic, but there is no single player who has put more on the line than anyone else. You do not win anything without a bit of hurt.
“It is amazing how bumps and bruises disappear at this time of year.
“We were given a blueprint of how to beat Sarries when we lost to them at Wembley. We will follow that plan and we will go out to win.”
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