Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea has endured a tough start to the season. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Heineken Cup

Besieged Conor O'Shea desperate to break Clermont's historic home run

Harlequins lie on the brink of Heineken Cup disaster if they cannot fashion a win in France.

IN MARCH OF this year, Conor O’Shea distanced himself from the Ireland job [vacated by Declan Kidney] and looked ahead to a Heineken Cup quarter final with Munster.

The Irish province were serious underdogs going into the cup clash at The Stoop as Quins sought to make it seven wins from seven in the competition. Munster, inspired by Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara, knocked the English side on their back — literally in the case of James Downey v Mike Brown — and they have not been the same since.

O’Shea’s men have won two from five in the Premiership and were rocked 33 — 26 by Scarlets at home last week. The Irishman went all Rob Penney after the loss and questioned the desire and skill levels of most of his matchday squad. Speaking on Sky Sports, O’Shea accused his players of playing ‘touch rugby’. Only Mike Brown, Nick Evans and Chris Robshaw escaped with some credit from the director of rugby.

A number of English newspapers, including The Times and Telegraph, have openly questioned whether the former Ireland fullback has brought the team as far as he can.

Quins have been blighted by injuries to their backline — Tom Casson, George Lowe and Ugo Monye are out of commission — by the departures of Olly Kohn [retired] and James Johnston [to Saracens] have been keenly felt. There is still enough class in the English side for them to have expected to see off Scarlets but, in truth, Brown’s two-try effort was Polyfilla for gaping cracks that were plain to see.

To make matters worse, Harlequins’ next tie involves a Sunday sermon with Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel Michelin. Last year’s beaten finalists have won 64 fixtures on home turf in a remarkable run stretching back six years. O’Shea told ERC TV:

When you’re mentally in a bad place, sometimes you have to go to some place where you can release yourself and just play. That’s what we’re going to do out there. They haven’t been beaten there for six years and they’re full of internationals.”

“We need to get the bodies and some cavalry back in there,” O’Shea added. “There’s a number of people out that we need to get back into the group. Hopefully that will happen soon.”

Quins have one bonus point after week one and will be doing well to add even a solitary point to that total by 6pm on Sunday. No team has ever emerged from their Heineken Cup pool after losing their opening two fixtures so O’Shea will be relying on more than Mike Brown to stop Clermont’s run at 64 and secure a memorable win.

Team news: O’Mahony returns for Munster, Gopperth at 10 for Leinster

Here’s a video of BOD showing his pure class

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