belfasttelegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Keogh steps out of shadow

Leinster's Simon Keogh knows the threat that his old club Harlequins will pose in Sunday's Heineken Cup quarter-final

In a backline jammed with international caps and Grand Slam-winners, it can be easy to go unnoticed.

Felipe Contepomi, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan, Rob Kearney and Girvan Dempsey — the names read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of international back-play.

Simon Keogh? Not so much.

However, the former St Michael’s and Old Belvedere player is in the spotlight this week ahead of Leinster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final showdown with Harlequins at The Stoop on Sunday — primarily because of the five seasons he spent with ‘Quins.

Keogh was a regular starter during his time at The Stoop, while Leinster’s array of backline talent has reduced to him to a bit-part role.

He has been mightily impressed with Harlequins this season as coach Dean Richards has guided them effortlessly through their European pool past Stade Francais and Ulster, while also steering them to the upper reaches of the Guinness Premiership.

“You always keep an eye on your former team and they have been in top form this season,” said the affable 29-year-old.

“They are a young and enthusiastic side. They have loads of pace and they use it. They play with a lot of width and enthusiasm. They chase everything and they are

never out of a game. They have won a few games in the last few minutes at this stage so they are a team that will never give up.

“Richards is obviously good at scouting talent and he has brought in these guys who bring a lot of pace and flair to their game.

“The heartbeat of the squad is eight, nine and 10. These guys dictate the game. Nick Easter gets them the go-forward ball, Danny Care creates the tempo that they have, and Nick Evans at 10 is the match-winner.”

Harlequins have traditionally been regarded as the team of ‘city boys’ well-heeled Oxbridge types who work in finance and play a bit of ‘rugger’ at the weekend — in contrast to the ‘earthier’ Leicester or Gloucester.

As images go, it is not a million miles away from the stereotypes flung in Leinster’s direction and, having experienced both environments, Keogh believes ‘Quins are developing a tougher image — particularly at The Stoop.

“They have a sold-out stadium every week so that creates an atmosphere. I wouldn’t say it is a Welford Road or a Kingsholm or something like that, but it is certainly getting that way,” added Keogh.

Munster will hope to make it an Irish double on Sunday when they face the Ospreys and the winners of Cardiff v Toulouse and Leicester v Bath will await.

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