Nick Evans believes Harlequins have to deliver back-to-back Premiership titles to achieve their goal of becoming the “most admired club in Europe.”
Standing in the way of the reigning champions on Saturday at the StoneX stadium are arch-rivals Saracens in the play-off semi-final and Evans, one of the sport’s outstanding attack coaches, insists his players are ready to deal with the confrontational nature of Owen Farrell and his team mates. Saracens were in the Championship last season having lost their top flight status over salary cap breaches and Harlequins want to prove they can lift the trophy with the former champions back in the top flight.
Evans knows that Harlequins are capable of incredible performances as highlighted by the extra time semi-final 43-36 win at Bristol and another remarkable 40-38 victory to claim the trophy against Exeter in the Twickenham final. Saracens, who did the double over their rivals in the regular season, will want to shut down the Harlequins attack by imposing their kick-chase and intensely physical style on the contest.
Evans said: “ We know it is going to be a ferocious atmosphere in terms of on the field and when you look at the way Sarries play they love that confrontation led by Owen (Farrell) and that is great. We know and expect that and we will stand our ground,. The guys have talked about what that looks like and what we need to do and when those things happen you have that controlled aggression.
“Cards at this time of the season can really cost you and we had one in the final that we kind of got away with but against someone like Sarries, if you are down to 14 men it is going to make it very hard. We are acutely aware of what Sarries are about and they love to be in your face and that’s great – we will be in their faces as well. That is part of the excitement with this game and we are looking forward to that challenge.”
As the only team to make it back into the semi-final play offs, Quins have to the chance of back to back titles to prove the doubters wrong and that is ensuring the team is zoned in the job in hand despite conceding nearly 50 points going down to Exeter last weekend.“The fact we made the top four means we are not going to disappear from view and we are the only team that have made it back. We haven’t been one of the teams talked about who can win it which is great for us:” added Evans.
“It puts us in the position we were in last year and that is a massive drive here. One of the visions here is to be the most admired club in Europe and we are happy to put that out there. The top teams have that ability to do that and for us to go back to back will help us cement that vision. Not many teams do that and it is a massive drive for us to back up what we did last year and keep proving the doubters wrong. To keep confirming the belief that what we are doing is right. Ultimately it doesn’t mean we are going to do it but we have total belief that we can.
“We have a certain identity and want to be the most admired club in Europe but we also want to entertain and for people to look at us and say “ I want to do that”. All these young kids coming through saying I would love to be involved, it looks a great place to be and they are successful. That is a big thing and people look at us and think it is all fun and games but there is a real drive to be a high performance environment.
“We won the trophy last year and are back in the top for and so we are doing something right but we have to evolve and are certainly not the finished product yet. We are excited to see how far we can go and the longevity we can create with the way we are going about things. I don’t know how far we can go but we will be brave and push the boundaries but is important we back that up with performances.”