Quins set sights on title
Director of rugby Conor O’Shea has insisted a home draw in the Premiership semi-finals is not the be all and end all for Harlequins.
The boot of former England fly half Jonny Wilkinson proved decisive as Toulon crushed Quins 37-8 in the south of France on Friday to end their hopes of defending the Amlin Cup crown they lifted last year.
O’Shea’s men, who triumphed 24-19 over Saracens at Wembley last time out in the top flight, entertain struggling Wasps on Saturday knowing a derby win will keep them on course to finish in the top two.
But Quins host third-placed Leicester Tigers a week later and the Stoop chief insisted nothing would be cut and dried even if they put their London rivals to bed this weekend.
And he reckoned his side’s big game temperament would be tested over the closing stages of the campaign.
“Our focus is the Premiership and it has been since we got knocked out of the Heineken Cup to be honest,” he said.
“We are expecting nothing short of an incredibly tough game against Wasps. They will have been galvanised by everything that is going on off the pitch for them and will be fired up for this.
“We’ve not lost a game at home in the Premiership since May and we have no intention of letting that slip.
“We’d love to get a home draw because we have worked so hard to get it, but nothing is won or lost by getting a home draw.
“The sort of season we have had has meant we have been there to be shot at all year and we have responded.
“There have been disappointments and nervous moments along the way and I’m sure there will be more to come, but we have learned from them.
“We have earned the right to play in the big games and that leaves your players hungry for more.”
Toulon barely visited Harlequins’ 22-yard line in the opening moments of Friday’s defeat, but Wilkinson punished any indiscipline to give his side a 15-3 lead within half an hour of the kick-off.
Tries from Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Benjamin Lapeyre, and Steffon Armitage meant Danny Care’s late score was a mere consolation.
“I think the scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game. Jonny was kicking penalties from anywhere in the first half and I think they got into our 22 once in that time,” he added.
“The young guys will have learned a lot. We created quite a lot of chances but you have to take them at this level.”
Quins will be boosted by the return of England captain Chris Robshaw to the starting line-up on Saturday after he missed the trip to France as a precaution.
And O’Shea has warned next week’s visitors Leicester that mercurial fly half Nick Evans will be ready for them.
“Chris had a tight quad and could have played, but he ran the risk of being forced out for six to eight weeks, so we didn’t risk it,” he said.
“Nick stubbed his foot while taking a kick off against Saracens and we are still waiting for the inflammation to settle down, but he will be ready for Leicester.
“We are in a good position as the majority of the players are fit and available.”