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Green pastures: 80,000 to watch Harlequins and London Irish square off

Conor O’Shea’s league leaders will be favourites to defeat a rattled Exiles side.

Nick Easter goes on the charge against London Irish.
Nick Easter goes on the charge against London Irish.
Image: David Davies/PA Wire.

THEY WERE NOT messing around when they named the Aviva Premiership’s festive clash at Twickenham the Big Game.

More than 80,000 rugby fans will pour off their Christmas couches and into the home of English rugby tomorrow to catch Big Game 5 – the league clash between Harlequins and London Irish.

Conor O’Shea’s league leaders take on a London Irish side that are floundering at 11th in the standings but the contest should be closer than the positions suggest.

On 28 October, Quins snatched a late-win, despite Ian Humphrey’s best efforts, over the Exiles thanks to a controversial try that even their own inside centre Tom Casson felt he had knocked on.

You can’t take for granted the amount of times you’ll get to play in front of 80-odd-thousand. That’s what players play for. There’s going to be a great atmosphere. We’re looking to play the rugby we do but not to be entertaining, to get the result.

O’Shea played six seasons with Irish, scoring 412 points in 127 appearances, before taking up a managerial role after his retirement. He insists, however, that there is ‘no special edge’ to the London derby. He said:

We’ve got such an incredible group of players here, in terms of their attitude and their will to be better and get the best out of themselves. I just want them to do themselves justice.

“Every game is big and every game has that equal number of points you can win. But, it goes without saying, that playing in front of a full house as a player you enjoy it and you want to show off a little more.”

O’Shea revealed that his daughters may be in attendance at Twickenham tomorrow but rugby-viewing will not top their agenda. Soft-pop newcomers Lawson will be at the ground to aurally entertain the masses.

“My girls absolutely love them,” said O’Shea, “so they’re quite excited about that.”

Elsewhere in the Premiership

Bottom of the table and with their social media strategy for 2013 definitely not including calling online commenters ‘absolute f**kwits’, Sale Sharks are in desperate need of a win.

Sharks [with Tony Buckley and Cillian Willis set to feature] take on Worcester Warriors [Neil Best and John Andress] at Salford City Stadium.

Exeter Chiefs [Tom Hayes, Ian Whitten and Gareth Steenson] could break into the top four with a win over Bath [Ryan Caldwell].

Niall Morris scored two tries and Geordan Murphy was assured at fullback for Leicester Tigers in their 31-9 win over the Exiles last weekend. They take on a Gloucester side featuring Shane Monahan, who scored four tries in a recent Amlin Challenge Cup victory.

Mark McCall’s Saracens are ready to pounce for top spot in Quins slip up. They are at home to Northampton Saints on Sunday.

Top 14

Grenoble, featuring the defensive coaching talents of Bernard Jackman, defeated Toulouse 15-6 last weekend and currently lie in sixth place.

They are at home, at Stade Lesdiguieres, tomorrow against 12th place Bordeaux-Begles and will be confident of making it two wins in succession.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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