Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

O'Shea to keep faith with young side

Conor O'Shea was delighted with Harlequins' victory

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea will stick with his kids for next Sunday's LV= Cup final against Sale Sharks or Saracens at Worcester's Sixways stadium.

A young Harlequins side beat Bath 31-23 in Saturday's semi-final at The Stoop to reach the final of the Anglo-Welsh knockout competition for the first time.

"One hundred per cent, yes," O'Shea said after watching his youngsters turn on the style to score four super tries and overcome a more experienced Bath team.

O'Shea, who named 16 players under the age of 23 in his 23-man squad, was delighted with both their attacking flair and the spirit they showed when the going got tough.

Despite having Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Mike Brown and Joe Marler on RBS 6 Nations duty with England, O'Shea took the decision to once again rest several big names - including Nick Evans, Nick Easter and Ugo Monye. His faith in the emerging players who had reached the last four was more than repaid.

"I love seeing rugby played like that, but if we don't do a job next week it counts for nothing," he said. "But you have days like this that you remember as a group of players and this will stand a lot of young guys in massive stead when they look down in future years of where they had to go.

"My God, they were hurting out there but they just kept coming. If you play rugby like that, I don't really care if you win or lose. That's the type of energy and the type of ambition we want at this club. The guys have done nothing yet in terms of this competition - they're only in the final. But they've worked too hard not to put a similar performance out there next week."

Winger Tom Williams grabbed two tries while Tom Guest and Karl Dickson also touched down, with fly-half Ben Botica kicking 11 points - converting all four tries before putting the issue beyond doubt with a late penalty.

The visitors replied with tries from lock Francis Louw and full-back Nick Abendanon, with fly-half Tom Heathcote kicking their other 13 points. Bath, who had targeted the LV= competition as a way into the Heineken Cup, will now return to the Aviva Premiership to try to clinch their place in Europe's premier club competition next season.

Forwards coach Neal Hatley said: "It's a really big blow. This was the quickest route but now we'll have to try and do it through the Premiership. Defence let us down. It was as badly as we have defended all year but credit to Harlequins - they put you under pressure."