Harlequins have been the least active of England’s top-flight brigade when it comes to recruitment – just three signings, none of them in the first flush of youth, and some tinkering at academy level has been the extent of their summer business dealings – but the Londoners have no plans to change their hyperactive style of rugby. Conor O’Shea, the man in charge at The Stoop, is promising more of the same, with added attitude.
“There has been a lot of talk that Quins have been ‘worked out’, which is rubbish,” he declared emphatically ahead of today’s derby with Wasps at Twickenham.
“We have a certain way we want to play and we’ll bring that to the party this season, but there will be an added extra edge. Everyone knows the way we play: it’s our style, our identity, we all buy into it and we develop our players on that basis. That doesn’t mean it’s the right way, but we’ve won three trophies in three seasons and that doesn’t happen by accident.”
Quins won the Premiership title in a memorable 2011-12 campaign and reached the play-offs again last season, but then disappeared into the cul-de-sac known as Welford Road – home of Leicester, who went on to claim the big prize a fortnight later.
On the face of it, the result vindicated the Leicester director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, who had publicly cast doubt on the Londoners’ ability to reach the mountain-top twice in a calendar year.
Quins might have pushed the Tigers much harder but for some muddled thinking at the end of the first half, when they conceded the softest of tries, and according to O’Shea, that failure of mental application will not be repeated. “We’ve been focusing a lot on our mindset,” he said. “We’ve been looking at those big momentum shifts and seeing what can be done to make sure they go our way in the future.”
The former Leicester hooker Benjamin Kayser has been named in a 30-man France training squad ahead of the autumn internationals against New Zealand, Tonga and South Africa. Kayser, who must overcome the Racing Metro forward Dimitri Szarzewski if he is to nail down a starting position, is the only man in the party with experience of Premiership rugby.