Harlequins are stepping up their search for a new director of rugby to replace the disgraced Dean Richards, who left the club as a result of his haemoglobin habit and is currently in the early weeks of a three-year suspension.
The Londoners are in equally urgent need of one or two other things, not least a victory after four winless weeks in the Premiership, but by the time they reach the second batch of Heineken Cup pool fixtures in December, they should at least know where they are going on the recruitment front.
"We don't want to rush this, but we don't want to be tardy either," said Mark Evans, their chief executive. "I'd be surprised if we didn't have someone in place before Christmas." Might Ian McGeechan, who took the British and Irish Lions to South Africa during the summer, be on the list of possible candidates? "I haven't spoken to Ian," Evans replied. If and when he does, he might well find that McGeechan has little interest in such a move.
Evans, the sharpest chief executive in the club game as well as the most media-savvy, kept certain cards very close to his chest yesterday. Badly affected by the fake blood scandal – absolved of serious wrongdoing by those investigating the affair and its cover-up, he still had his good name dragged through the mud – he was unwilling to reopen old wounds, so to speak. What would he say to those who believe Quins should have been thrown out of this season's Heineken Cup? "I wouldn't say anything," he replied. Do Quins have more to prove than others this season?
"No, I don't think so." Was he bothered by the amount of stick aimed at his side from the terraces? "There's nothing I can do about it."
He was, however, more forthcoming on the search for Richards' successor. "The fit will be interesting," he admitted. "Our preference is for someone with experience of the English club game and I'd like to think we're an attractive proposition, that we tick a lot of boxes when it comes to our financial base, our facilities, our academy set-up and our ambition." Can Quins, fined a record £260,000 and liable for legal fees thought to be closing in on £200,000, afford to spend big at this juncture? "There will always be some people who price themselves out of reach," he said, "but when we identify the person we want, I believe we'll be able to agree a deal."
The chief executive confirmed that the present head coach John Kingston, asked to run the playing operation on an interim basis, was not interested in taking on the director of rugby role. He also said Kingston's position on the staff was non-negotiable. Whoever succeeds Richards in the big man's chair at the Stoop will have extremely limited scope to bring in support staff of his own. Kingston will be consulted on the new appointment, although he will have no say in the final decision.
Gareth Delve, the Gloucester captain banned for three weeks for punching the London Irish flanker George Stowers in a Premiership match earlier this month, has had his suspension cut by seven days on appeal and will therefore be available for his club's opening Heineken Cup match with Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingsholm on 9 October.
Saracens meanwhile, have confirmed they will take on South Africa at Wembley on 17 November, four days before the Springboks play Italy. Saracens have already drawn a crowd of 45,000 to the stadium for a Premiership match with Northampton.Reuse content