Quins focused on the 'process' not the prize
October 10, 2012
Can Quins follow up their Aviva Premiership title with Heineken Cup glory? © Getty Images
Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea is refusing to plot the next obvious step in his side's development - from Aviva Premiership champions to Heineken Cup glory.
O'Shea's side captured the Amlin Challenge Cup crown in 2011 and followed that up with victory in the Premiership showpiece last season but he is refusing to set his sights on Europe's top prize ahead of their Heineken Cup opener against Biarritz at The Stoop on Saturday.
"Every game in the Heineken Cup is tough," said O'Shea, whose side will be looking to bounce back from successive Premiership defeats. "It's exciting to be involved and we want to go a step further but we won't think about that. We will just go game by game. You lose things at this time of year, you don't win them. It's about jockeying for position and we need to approach each game so it allows us to have a chance come next April.
"We never focus on winning things, I know we are judged on results and Chris [Robshaw, captain] wants to win silverware as do all the players but if we start thinking too far ahead then we will miss that putt like the Americans found out. You can't focus on the outcome you just concentrate on the process."
Quins enjoyed a rollercoaster of a campaign last term that saw them lose at home to Toulouse but beat the French giants away before suffering an agonising defeat away to Connacht that saw their euro dreams fade. But O'Shea insists that heartache proved to be crucial stepping stone for his side. "In a lot of ways that hurt," he said, "but it fuelled the rest of our season. You learn from those nights. In big games you have got to be clinical when you get your chances."
It is a sentiment that is echoed by Robshaw who is relishing the chance to match himself against the best in Europe with the Heineken Cup set to be a key proving ground in terms of earning selection for the British & Irish Lions tour next summer. "The hits are bigger and it is a bit quicker and you do have less opportunities so you have to make sure you are more clinical," he enthused. "In the Premiership you may get three or four opportunities whereas in the Heineken Cup you may just get one and you have to make sure you take it."
As for his own aspirations, unsurprisingly they come second to that of the team. "Every time you go onto a pitch you want to play your best no matter what is at the end of the year," he said. "Every time you put on the shirt you want to go out and represent the club well. It is irrelevant what is happening in a couple of months or in the summer."
The season is sure to take its toll with England's autumn international series set to demand even more of Robshaw who as a keen student of Dave Brailsford's 'aggregation of marginal gains' approach is aware it is difficult to be at your peak every time you perform.
"It is about having that balance," he said of the task faced by him and his international colleagues. "You want to be in form for every game and of course you want to peak in every big game. But you need to make sure you are free of injury and playing well enough to be selected in the first place."
But it is the intensity of the competition that ensures the likes of Robshaw and O'Shea remain committed fans of the competition that they both hope survives the attempts to re-shape the European landscape. "It is a brilliant competition and everyone playing in it wants to continue to play in it," said Robshaw.
O'Shea is also hopeful of an amicable resolution. "It is what everyone wants," he said. "I know it is not for us to comment on the politics behind the issue but everyone wants the same thing. They want the best teams playing in the best competitions and hopefully sense will prevail and we will have that."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.