Racing's big names excite Quins
Conor O'Shea says the prospect of facing big names like Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Sexton is at the heart of why Harlequins 'love the European Cup'.
Conor O'Shea says the prospect of facing big names like Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Sexton and Mike Phillips is at the heart of why Harlequins 'love the European Cup'.
O'Shea's Quins host French giants Racing Metro at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, with the visitors set to welcome back star centre Roberts from injury in a side that could also include fellow British and Irish Lions Sexton, Phillips and Dan Lydiate.
Sexton and Phillips came off the bench in Quins' stunning 32-8 success at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Round Three, while Lydiate missed the tie entirely.
But rather than worry about the prospect of taking on a team that could include the four Lions alongside players of the ilk of skipper Dimitri Szarzewski, O'Shea insists his side are relishing the prospect of coming face to face with a number of the northern hemisphere's best.
"They have threats in so many places - Jamie is another massive bloke," O'Shea told Sky Sports News.
"They could have Jonny Sexton playing 10, Mike Phillips at nine, Dan Lydiate on the flank... they have so many good players. That's four from the Lions side which started the third Test.
"But we've got some experienced guys, Nick Easter, Nick Evans, Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown, leading from the front. We've got some young English guys stepping up in recent weeks like Will Collier, Charlie Matthews and Charlie Walker - they will all start this weekend.
"That is great for the future of our club that these players are playing the top sides in Europe and that's why we love the European Cup."
Harlequins lost both their opening fixtures in Pool Three and looked to be out of contention for the knockout stages prior to the trip to Paris. O'Shea saw his side surprisingly beaten by the Scarlets at home in Round One before they suffered a similar fate at ASM Clermont Auvergne a week later.
But with last season's beaten quarterfinalists picking up two losing bonus points and then a full house last time out, they could top the group by the end of the weekend if they see off Racing and the Scarlets topple Clermont in Llanelli.
O'Shea is delighted that Quins' European Cup hopes remain alive but he knows the push for qualification has only just begun.
"In the last couple of weeks we've come back in the Premiership and now the European Cup. We played excellently, with a huge amount of intensity, but we need to start this match with the same amount of intensity," added O'Shea.
"The last thing that happened - and we told the players after the match - was Mike Brown tackling Jonny Sexton into touch, and that's half-time.
"It's a big challenge and we know if we can do a job at the Stoop then we've got a huge game against Clermont Auvergne in January. It's great just to be in the mix because we had a difficult start to the season.
"We have to move the ball around with pace. It if becomes a setpiece game then it becomes more suited to Racing. Although both our scrum and line-out were excellent, they are massive. I think when people come along to the Stoop and see them run out, live, they will see what challenge our players face.
"We have to keep the tempo up because if you go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight and you are a light-weight you are going to get beaten. We have to keep the ball on the move."