O'Shea inspired by Harlequins challenge

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The Independent Online

New Harlequins rugby director Conor O'Shea admits the chance of working in top-flight rugby union again was too good to turn down.

O'Shea will begin work at the Twickenham Stoop in March after seeing off a star-studded field to land the Quins post.

He is currently national director at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) but has held high-profile roles in rugby before, including as director of rugby at London Irish and national academy director of the Rugby Football Union.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the EIS and it is a shame that I will be moving on at such an exciting and challenging time for the organisation and for sport in this country," he said.

"But, plain and simply, my passion lies with rugby and my desire to influence at the sharp end of the game has never diminished.

"So, when approached by Harlequins, a club with an exciting squad, a committed and talented group of coaches and support staff and a stable business model to underpin long-term success, I knew it was a challenge I had to take on."

The 39-year-old will head up Quins' existing coaching staff of John Kingston, Colin Osborne and Tony Diprose.

Head coach Kingston recently agreed a new contract but Diprose was thought to be among the rugby director contenders alongside candidates like British and Irish Lions chief Ian McGeechan and ex-Scotland supremo Frank Hadden.

O'Shea will fill the vacancy created by Dean Richards' resignation earlier this year.

Former England number eight Richards quit following his role in the 'Bloodgate' fake injury scandal that subsequently saw him land a three-year worldwide coaching ban.

Quins chief executive Mark Evans said: "After a thorough search, the board are delighted to have secured Conor's services.

"He combines international playing experience with a proven managerial track record in rugby and elsewhere.

"We are very confident he has the skill-set we were looking for and will dovetail extremely well with our current playing and management staff."

The EIS announced the capture of O'Shea in March 2008 and he took up the role after leaving the RFU.

O'Shea will remain in his post at the EIS for another three months but he should be on board at Quins in time for a possible Guinness Premiership play-off push.

While Quins are facing an early exit from this season's Heineken Cup, having lost their first three pool games, their Premiership form is better and they currently lie five points off a top-four place.

With Kingston at the helm, Quins have recovered steadily from the 'Bloodgate' saga and strung together an impressive Premiership run that has seen them lose only once in their last seven league matches, stretching back to September.