Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Quins boosted for Leinster clash

Harlequins and Leinster will renew their European rivalry on Sunday - five years after the 'Bloodgate' scandal that rocked rugby.

On that occasion - a gripping quarter-final won 6-5 by Leinster - Quins faked a blood injury to wing Tom Williams in an attempt to get goalkicker Nick Evans back on the pitch, despite Evans carrying an injury.

But the fall-out for Quins was significant as then rugby director Dean Richards subsequently landed a three-year worldwide coaching ban and the club received a £260,000 fine, plus the prospect of rebuilding a battered reputation.

That damaging episode is now firmly in the past, though, and victory for Quins at the Twickenham Stoop this weekend would see them lead Pool Two heading into next weekend's return fixture against Leinster in Dublin.

Quins are boosted by returning England men Chris Robshaw, Joe Marler, Mike Brown and Marland Yarde, and rugby director Conor O'Shea said: "It has been a tough month for those guys, but there are some games that not even I could rest them for.

"If I told them to sit this one out, they might shoot me.

"It's exciting. This is the first time since we played Wasps in the Champions Cup in October that we've had our full squad, so we have to hit the ground running quickly."

Wasps, courtesy of successive defeats in October against Leinster and Quins, will see their hopes effectively extinguished if they come unstuck against Castres at Stade Pierre Antoine on Sunday.

England forwards James Haskell and Matt Mullan both return from international duty, with Haskell captaining a team that also sees starts for the likes of Bradley Davies, Ashley Johnson and Nathan Hughes.

"This is a huge game for us," Wasps rugby director Dai Young said.

"An away win would put us right back on track in Europe with everything still to play for, so there is no shortage of motivation in the squad to put in a winning performance."

Leicester's hopes of progressing from Pool Three will nosedive if they fail to beat reigning European champions Toulon at Welford Road on Sunday.

After losing to the Scarlets last time out in Europe, Tigers must make home advantage count against a side minus international stars Leigh Halfpenny and Matt Giteau, but one that still includes the likes of former Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni, wing Bryan Habana, lock Bakkies Botha and flanker Steffon Armitage.

Toulon are chasing a 10th successive victory in European competition - a feat only previously accomplished by Leicester, Leinster, Toulouse and Munster - which merely underlines the magnitude of Tigers' task.

Glasgow, the current Pool Four leaders, can take a giant stride towards securing quarter-final status if they topple four-time European champions Toulouse on Sunday.

It represents a tall order at Stade Ernest Wallon, and the visitors' defence is certain to be tested, but Glasgow claimed a famous 33-26 victory on Toulouse soil five years ago, while they began the current campaign with impressive wins against Bath and Montpellier.

"Every game has its own story, and it will be fascinating to see how this encounter will unfold," Glasgow boss Gregor Townsend said.

"Any successful defensive performance is as much about the collective attitude and desire of the players to make tackle after tackle than it is about the necessary technical or tactical requirements.

"Our players enjoy this part of the game, and we expect to see them deliver a Test match-level defensive performance on Sunday."


From Belfast Telegraph