O'Shea ready for biggest day
Conor O'Shea has branded Sunday's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Munster as the biggest occasion in Harlequins' history - exactly four years on the from the club's nadir of Bloodgate.
Three years ago, O'Shea decided to leave behind his "safe job" at the English Institute Of Sport to guide Harlequins from the wreckage of Bloodgate and it has been an unqualified success. Harlequins won the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2011, the Aviva Premiership title in 2012 and now they are aiming to conquer Europe. Victory this weekend would put the club into their first Heineken Cup semi-final.
"This Sunday will be the best day The Stoop has witnessed in terms of atmosphere and occasion," O'Shea said. "I was watching the Champions League last night and thinking 'that's the level we are at in rugby'."
It was in the 2009 quarter-final against Leinster that O'Shea's predecessor Dean Richards instructed wing Tom Williams to bite on a fake blood capsule so he could engineer a late substitution.
Harlequins lost anyway in a 6-5 thriller but their ruse was rumbled and it led to some of the darkest days for the club, with Richards receiving a three-year ban.
"Every person, every team has a history. There are good and bad chapters in every history. You want to go and create different chapters," O'Shea added.
"We just can't wait to get into the quarter-final this weekend and help this club get to a first Heineken Cup semi-final in its history.
"There is no tomorrow in games like this. Munster's journey of heartache and loss to ultimately winning it (in 2006) is one of the great stories of the Heineken Cup. They will come absolutely full on and we will be there to meet them and greet them in the right way."
O'Shea had to think long and hard about moving back into coaching, having left London Irish for strategic roles first at the Rugby Football Union and then EIS. But when he looked beneath the Bloodgate stain he saw a structure and, most importantly, a group of players who he believed could restore the club's reputation.
O'Shea said: "The club was not tainted in that the people and structures and players were in rude health. From bad can come good. It is a great club to be part of. I love rugby and the game and the guys here had incredible amount of ability. You back them that you are going to get a good chance to achieve something."