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London Irish 16:30 Harlequins

Quins united

Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea talks to Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis about the reasons behind the club's success.

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 20/12/12 8:58am

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If you speak to those in and around Harlequins, then one name crops up consistently as the reason for the club's rise to Premiership champions - Conor O'Shea.

However the 42-year-old laughs off such praise, claiming instead: "The players are after a Christmas bonus!"

The former Ireland full-back might be modest about his involvement, however there is no doubting the impact he has had at the Twickenham Stoop.

Having previously been the director of rugby at London Irish after injury ended his playing career prematurely, O'Shea went on to work with the RFU, overseeing the 14 regional academies.

And although O'Shea was then lured away from rugby to become the national director at the English Institute of Sport, he was tempted back to the sport in 2010 as Quins looked to rebuild their reputation after a torrid period.

His first full season might have been unspectacular in terms of domestic results - the club finished in seventh - however they clinched the Amlin Challenge Cup crown and the foundations were laid for what was to come.

The 2011-12 season finally brought the long-awaited league success the club had craved with their first ever Premiership crown.

And this time around, the club have picked up where they left off in the league - while they are also on the brink of the Heineken Cup knockout stages.

However O'Shea is quick to pass on the praise of the club's success to the players and coaches.

"Look at the players across the club and they are all motivated to do well," O'Shea told Sky Sports.

"We won the Premiership A League final against Saracens on Monday. It was a really good lift for us and shows the young talent we have pushing for places. There is lots of competition.

"The likes of Nick Easter, Nick Evans, Danny Care, Chris Robshaw and George Robson are all tremendously competitive and they drive the club forward.

"Dick Best puts it well when he says you can go from back slapping to back stabbing in a heartbeat so it is vital you keep your eyes firmly on the job in head and for us that is a big game next up against Northampton."
Conor O'Shea

"Then we have some wonderful coaches in John Kingston, Tony Diprose, Colin Osbourne and Mark Mapletoft who are all motivated to do well for the club."


The combinations on and off the field certainly seem to be working wonders - with the club top of the Premiership and Heineken Cup standings.

However there is no resting on their laurels, with a tough run of fixtures over the festive period - starting against Northampton on Saturday and followed by clashes against London Irish and London Welsh.

"Dick Best puts it well when he says you can go from back slapping to back stabbing in a heartbeat so it is vital you keep your eyes firmly on the job in head and for us that is a big game next up against Northampton," explained O'Shea.

"It looks really comfortable for us at the moment but we're only halfway through the season and have won nothing yet.

"No trophies are won in December, however you can certainly play yourself out of contention if you take your eye off the ball.

"We know you can have good days and you can have bad days but it's about making sure that you are in the mix come April/May time and that is where we want to be."

One of the keys to the club's success has been their ability to react to their bad days. Last season they followed up a home loss to Toulouse with a stunning win in France, while they avenged their defeats to Northampton and Leicester when it mattered the most - in the play-off semi-final and final. This season the club have learned from their setback in the last year's Heineken Cup to move to within a point for the last eight.

"It hurt us badly last season that we didn't do better in the Heineken Cup as it is a competition that we want to do well in," said O'Shea.

"The expectation is on us now, though, especially with the group we're in. We've had those two wins against Zebre where it was a no-win situation as you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. However, what we did was a professional job and that has put us in a strong position."

And a professional job is exactly what O'Shea has been doing in turning the club from also-rans to one of the country's leading teams.

Conor O'Shea was promoting the QBE Coaching Club; an initiative run between QBE and the RFU to recruit and train 2,015 new level two rugby coaches by 2015. For more information please visit

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