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Chris Robshaw hails Harlequins squad strength

Chris Robshaw feels Harlequins have built a "special" squad to compete at the same level as English champions Saracens.

Harlequins have recruited heavily since finishing eighth in the Aviva Premiership last season with former Australia captain James Horwill, Welsh pair Jamie Roberts and Adam Jones and Scotland wing Tim Visser among those to move to the Twickenham Stoop.

The early signs have been positive with Quins occupying a top-four position and Robshaw believes they are in fine fettle ahead of their annual 'Big Game' visit to Twickenham on Sunday, with Gloucester providing the opposition.

"Conor (O'Shea, Quins director of rugby) has expressed his frustration over the last couple of years that we have not been able to bring in some of those big names," Robshaw said.

"But when our team sheet gets released for the Big Game you look at that team and it is pretty special - there are threats across the board. That is what we have been needing.

"When we won the Premiership (2011-12 season) we had a pretty good team but we did not have the core squad.

"As much as I hate to use them as an example you look at Saracens and they rotate players.

"They manage to keep them fresh and produce them at the right time.

"We like to feel we have got that, we have got a squad now and guys can come in and out and we can rotate."

Robshaw returns to Twickenham for the first time since England's fateful World Cup campaign in the autumn.

The flanker looks set to be stripped of the England captaincy for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations with new coach Eddie Jones expected to install Dylan Hartley as skipper, providing he recovers from the concussion that has kept him out since November.

Robshaw admits moving on from World Cup failure was never going to be easy but says Harlequins' form has helped the healing process.

"If I had come back and we were losing every game I am sure it would be a much different situation," Robshaw said.

"But there is a great vibe here and it is a good place to be.

"C oming back here, playing a good brand of rugby in front of 70, 80,000 people, it doesn't get much better."

Gloucester have won three and lost three of their six Premiership games but director of rugby David Humphreys says the whole club is excited to be Harlequins' 'Big Game' opponents at Twickenham for the first time.

"We've talked about it all week, these are the games that the big players want to play in, not just play in but also perform, and they want to put in a big performance," Humphreys said.

"When you look at our squad, at the depth of experience - World Cup Finals, international matches, All Blacks, British Lions - they won't be intimidated at all.

"They understand the excitement and the pressure that comes with playing in these games."

Unbeaten Saracens travel to Wasps with centre Brad Barritt continuing to lead the side in the absence of Alistair Hargreaves.

Wasps are on a high following their spectacular European Champions Cup victory at Bath but director of rugby Dai Young accepts Saracens represent another step up.

"They have been the form team not only in England, but in Europe so far this season and are certainly setting the standards that we are all chasing," Young told the official Wasps website.

"It's a massive challenge for us but we are going into it with a smile on our faces, on the back of a very good performance against Bath."

Bath seek to bounce back from that Wasps' mauling at home to Worcester, with only one point separating the two clubs in the lower reaches of the Premiership.


From Belfast Telegraph