David Flatman: Leicester and Quins can both play against type

From the Front Row

Next weekend's Premiership final sees two cultures collide. In a sense, on whichever side of rugby's fence you sit there is a team for you to support.

Leicester, in their eighth straight final, exude workmanlike grit. They are known as the team with no frills and they are a group of men who feel a hissing disdain for the new-fangled white-boot brigade. Harlequins are the posh boys of West London. Traditionally with the odd roughneck interspersed among brogue-shod future bankers, they have always been seen as a softer touch.

Up to a point, this is a load of tosh. Nobody would ever deny that Leicester breed hard men and have been perhaps the most consistently abrasive of all English teams. But, and it feels almost blasphemous to say it, they do have frills. The hard men have not gone soft, but have developed perhaps the most complete attacking game in the country.

Their pack remains as powerful as ever and it rarely fails to put the back line on the front foot. But what they do with this quality ball is now genuinely threatening. They kick intelligently, they use Horacio Agulla and Alesana Tuilagi as weapons all over the field and they are adept at finding Manu Tuilagi and Geordan Murphy in the wide channels where defenders want to see them least. They are accurate, considered and hugely potent. Frilly indeed.

But it is the Quins who have, under the guidance of Conor O'Shea, metamorphosed into an entirely fresh entity. Danny Care has always been tough for front-five forwards to deal with around the fringes and in Nick Evans and Mike Brown they have players who offer two of any coach's list of dream attributes: the ability to do something magical and an extremely low error count. The latter is probably what makes them so indispensable in the eyes of O'Shea.

Where the question marks really hung were over the head of their scrummage and, simply, their level of nastiness – that is, brutal, explosive running of cutting lines, ferociousness in the tackle and venomous clearing of rucks.

Mo Fa'asavalu hits the ball – and his opponents – like a wrecking ball. Nick Easter knows a bit about challenging defences too, and seems impossible to stop behind the gain line. He also has the skill level and confidence to set his team-mates free by any means. The best No 8 in the country, he is in the form of his life.

As for their scrum, it has undergone the most stunning restoration I have ever seen in one season. James Johnston, the enormous tighthead, is the most penalised man in the league because, put bluntly, their scrum got shoved around early in the season and he was roundly blamed. Joe Marler, too, found his prowess at the set piece being called into question. What he needed was coaching and game time. He has received both.

This season Quins have stuck together – partly through lack of resources but primarily because that seems to be their way. They have been expertly coached by John Kingston and, most importantly, they have bought into what they all knew they could achieve as a pack. This bred belief and solidarity and never was it evidenced so crushingly as last weekend when, in the semi-final, they demolished Northampton, possessors of perhaps the most potent scrummage in Europe.

Nobody will deny that Quins are the go-to club for the chino-wearer, but there is a new hardness, a new menace. They are cosmopolitan gaggle, but together they make a nice fit. If any team can overcome Leicester's time-honed, muscular suffocation it is the posh boys of West London.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea