Tag Archives: heineken

Heineken Cup quarter-final previews 2013

Your weekend guide to the Heineken Cup: Three English sides in the last eight

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

21:00 GMT, 5 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 5 April 2013

Harlequins, Saracens and Leicester will be flying the flag for the Aviva Premiership in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals this weekend.

Here, Sportsmail tells you everything you need to know ahead of one of the most eagerly anticipated weekend's of the season…

Flying the flag: Manu Tuilagi starts for Leicester against Toulon

Flying the flag: Manu Tuilagi starts for Leicester against Toulon

Clermont Auvergne v Montpellier

(Saturday: Stade Marcel Micheli, 3.40pm, live on Sky Sports 1)

Clermont are favourites to extend a run of 58 successive home wins. Wales’ Lee Byrne and Scotland’s Nathan Hines face Scot Johnnie Beattie.

PREDICTION: Home win.

Harlequins v Munster

(Sunday: The Stoop, 2pm, live on Sky Sports 2)

England captain Chris Robshaw returns for Quins’ bid for a first semi-final. Munster are boosted by return of lock Paul O’Connell and wing Simon Zebo.

PREDICTION: Home win.

Home tie: Owen Farrell is in the Saracens side to face Munster at Twickenham

Home tie: Owen Farrell is in the Saracens side to face Munster at Twickenham

Saracens v Ulster

(Saturday: Twickenham, 6.30pm, live on Sky Sports 1)

Saracens opt for fly-half Owen Farrell over Charlie Hodgson. They also recall Scotland flanker Kelly Brown. Ulster welcome prop John Afoa.

PREDICTION: Home win.

Toulon v Leicester

(Sunday: Stade Felix Mayol, 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports 2)

Leicester name same starters for third week running. Toby Flood faces former Newcastle colleague in Jonny Wilkinson. Prop Andrew Sheridan starts.

PREDICTION: Away win.

Amlin Challenge Cup — quarter-final

Bath v Stade Francais

(Saturday: The Rec, 1pm, live on Sky Sports 1)

Bath move Horacio Agulla to centre for Matt Banahan. Nick Abendanon returns on wing. Italy captain Sergio Parisse is in a Stade team alongside ex-Wallaby flanker David Lyons.

PREDICTION: Away win.

Saracens 40 Edinburgh 7: Bonus-point win sends Sarries through in Vicarage Road send-off

Saracens 40 Edinburgh 7: Ashton doubles lifts Sarries in Vicarage Road send-off

By
Luke Benedict

PUBLISHED:

15:50 GMT, 20 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 20 January 2013

England winger Chris Ashton defied the snow to score two tries and book Saracens a Heineken Cup quater-final clash with Ulster.

It was the sort of day when a winger only touches the ball twice – luckily for Ashton he scored both times. The first was a routine chase but the second came from a controversial cross-field kick from Owen Farrell.

The England fly-half, wearing the Saracens number 13 shirt yesterday, looked to be teeing up a penalty but spotted Ashton open wide and pulled the trigger. The Edinburgh players were furious as the kicking tee was already on the pitch, meaning Saracens, playing their final match at Vicarage Road, had no option but to kick.

Saracens finished first in their table ahead of Munster and Racing Metro

Top dogs: Saracens finished first in their table ahead of Munster and Racing Metro

Charlie Hodgson celebrates after scoring Saracens' fourth try to secure their bonus-point

Ecstatic: Charlie Hodgson celebrates after scoring Saracens' fourth try to secure their bonus-point

But Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall preferred to salute Ashton, saying: 'It was great to see Ashy score a couple of tries and getting back to what he really does best.

'The second try was fantastic and I wish I could claim credit for thinking that up; Ashy and Owen (Farrell) just saw each other and they pulled it off.

'We can appreciate just how difficult it was out there and we said after the game that the conditions were as bad as it gets with the ball like a bar of soap.’

Saracens' skipper Steve Borthwick rampages through tackles at a very snowy Vicarage Road

Power: Saracens' skipper Steve Borthwick rampages through tackles at a very snowy Vicarage Road

Richard Wigglesworth handed Edinburgh a way back before half-time. With the ball slipping around like an ice-hockey puck the Saracens scrum-half fumbled and Greig Tonks tobogganed over the line.

But the game was won early in the second half with an unstoppable lineout drive. Eight snowmen might have done a better job of slowing down the driving maul than the visiting pack and Matt Stevens emerged smiling.

Saracens' Ernst Joubert takes a line-out on full stretch

Reach for the sky: Saracens' Ernst Joubert takes a line-out on full stretch

It was Charlie Hodgson who scored the crucial fourth try to cap off another polished performance this season. Edinburgh captain Greg Laidlaw was distracted by Joel Tomkins’ dummy line and Hodgson simply stepped through the defence.

The only question for Saracens now is where to stage April’s quarter-final. Their new Allianz Park 10,000-seater stadium is not large enough so the club are ‘assessing all options’ with Wembley a possibility.

Will Fraserescapes the Edinburgh defence on his way to a break the gain line

Braving the cold: Will Fraserescapes the Edinburgh defence on his way to a break the gain line

The groundsmen did a terrific job to get the match on and have the send-off for Vicarage Road

Snowed under: The groundsmen did a terrific job to get the match on and have the send-off for Vicarage Road

Northampton 9 Harlequins 18: Mike Brown wants to be full back

Northampton 9 Harlequins 18: Brown throws down the gauntlet as he drives Quins on

|

UPDATED:

22:13 GMT, 22 December 2012

Mike Brown has made it known to Stuart Lancaster that he is not content to play on the wing for England and wants to be selected as full back. If Saturday is anything to go by, the feisty Harlequin may yet get his way.

In front of the watching England head coach, Brown produced a stellar performance as the last line of defence in difficult conditions to take the man-of-the-match award.

Harlequins grabbed a vital win over title contenders Northampton to maintain their position at the top of the Aviva Premiership.

Not content: Mike Brown says he wants to play at full-back

Not content: Mike Brown says he wants to play at full-back

Even better for the 27-year-old was
the fact that Ben Foden was playing opposite him. Foden was back from
the ankle injury that kept him out of the autumn internationals in which
Brown started the last two Tests on the wing to great effect, while
Alex Goode played at full back.

Foden will be expected to press for a
start when England reconvene for the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland
at Twickenham in February in the opening RBS Six Nations match.

But he may struggle to make the
starting line-up, while Goode has been thrown down a direct challenge by
Brown — happy to play on the wing for his country, but preferring to
start at the back.

Getting his kicks: Nick Evans had an extremely productive day

Getting his kicks: Nick Evans had an extremely productive day

Quins director of rugby Conor O’Shea
revealed last night that a four-man discussion took place at training
the day before Harlequins thrashed Zebre in the Heineken Cup last
weekend between Brown, O’Shea himself, Lancaster and England backs coach
Andy Farrell.

Brown made it clear he wanted to play
as full back. ‘Mike wants to play for England and, in my opinion, you
always play your best team,’ said former Ireland full back O’Shea, who
picked him in his favoured position on Saturday.

‘Stuart and Andy came down to watch
training the other week and the four of us had a chat about it. Browny
will play anywhere for England and he had a great autumn series, but
given a choice it’s at full back where he really wants to play.’

On the run: Ben Foden breaks through the tackles of Ugo Monye and Mike Brown

On the run: Ben Foden breaks through the tackles of Ugo Monye and Mike Brown

The watching Lancaster would have
noticed Brown’s commanding display and the way natural playmakers such
as scrum half Danny Care sensibly curbed their enthusiasm to play cute
in such wet, slippery and muddy conditions. There was also another
physical performance from No 8 Nick Easter, who remains out of England
reckoning.

But Lancaster would also have felt
some sympathy for Foden, who managed to burst his way across the Quins
line in the 22nd minute and score, only to find out that the pass from
George Pisi was judged forward.

Replays revealed that this was a
highly dubious decision and even O’Shea conceded it was probably a try.
‘The pass looked pretty flat to me,’ he added. ‘In these games, the
margins are always very tight.’

At that stage the score was 3-3, with
Nick Evans and Stephen Myler scoring penalties. Myler twice kicked for
the corner rather than attempting the three points after Foden’s
disallowed try. A further penalty from Evans gave the visitors a narrow
interval lead.

Battle: A tight match was won by Harlequins

Battle: A tight match was won by Harlequins

Myler equalised in the 58th minute but
three further penalties from Evans earned Quins a nine point lead. Ryan
Lamb reduced the arrears to six points seven minutes from time but
Evans, with the last kick of the game, confirmed a vital win for the
Londoners — 14 out of 17 this season in all competitions — and robbed
the Saints of even a losing bonus point.

Jim Mallinder, surveying the wreckage
of a fourth home defeat in five, was understandably frustrated
afterwards, especially regarding the Foden ‘try’ that was not given.

‘It’s ridiculous that with all the
technology on hand we don’t use it for situations like that,’ he said,
accepting that referee Wayne Barnes had already blown on the advice of
his touch judge, thus removing any role for the TV official.

As for Quins, with Brown in such imperious form, life looks bright.

Danny Cipriani dropped from Sale Sharks squad

Cipriani the flop can't even make the bench for Sale as Mitchell shakes things up

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 21 December 2012


Axed: Cipriani's form is woeful

Axed: Cipriani's form is woeful

Danny Cipriani’s turbulent career took another severe hit on Friday when he was left out of Sale’s crucial Aviva Premiership trip to old club Wasps on Sunday.

The 25-year-old is the biggest casualty of a new regime imposed by the uncompromising John Mitchell, the former All Blacks coach, to try to lift the relegation-threatened club.

Cipriani joined Sale last summer and had hopes of an England recall, but has lost his place to Nick Macleod, who is seen as more reliable and sturdy in tight contests.

His demise has prompted talk of Sale trying to move him on, despite having signed a three-year deal.

Mitchell has decided Cipriani’s form is so poor that he cannot even gain a place on the bench. He prefers South African journeyman Corne Uys as back-up to Macleod. Cipriani’s undoing seems to be his oft-criticised tackling, which was exposed in the 62-0 trouncing by Toulon, the French big spenders, last Sunday in the Heineken Cup.

Mitchell, who joined last month as a consultant, made spiky comments after the game, questioning one or two of his new players’ attitudes.

‘Some of the characters have been revealed,’ he said of a squad who were expected to challenge for honours.

Now, after a disastrous first four months, Sale, six points adrift, must win their next two games against moderate Wasps on Sunday, and at home to Worcester next Friday to give themselves hope in 2013.

Sale watchers believe that Mitchell has decided Cipriani has been given every opportunity to prove his worth by starting 11 games, while injury-hit Macleod has begun only six.

Humiliation: Sale were hammered by Toulon in the Heineken Cup

Humiliation: Sale were hammered by Toulon in the Heineken Cup

Turbulent times of a rugby rebel

2006: Joins Wasps after glittering schoolboy career.

Mar 2008: Picked for England v Scotland in Six Nations but omitted for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ after attending a nightclub before match.

Oct 2008: Alleged training ground fight at Wasps involving Josh Lewsey.

Feb 2010: Complaints from management about behaviour on England Saxons trip to Italy. Joins Melbourne Rebels.

Feb 2011: Accused of taking a bottle of vodka from behind a bar. Docked match fee by Rebels and dropped for three games.

Aug 2012: Returns to Sale.

A hint of Mitchell’s thinking came 10
days ago before Sale played their home European pool game against
Toulon. Mitchell initially picked Rob Miller at fly-half only for
Cipriani, who had been ill, to be called up in a reshuffle the day
before.

Cipriani looked to have made a decent impression, and he appeared
optimistic after the narrow 17-6 defeat and talked about thriving in
Mitchell’s ‘new beginning’.

But that was before the trip to Toulon where Sale subsided after
half-time to concede nine tries in all. ‘I certainly know a lot more
about some individuals after that performance,’ added Mitchell.

Cipriani seems to have taken his omission from a return to his old club
philosophically, judging by tweets to his 270,000 followers.

He wrote on Thursday: ‘If you got to over think, is it right If the
issue has to be forced, is it right If it falls on deaf ears, what do
you do #life.’

Philosophical: The former Wasps fly half has failed to live up to his potential

Philosophical: The former Wasps fly half has failed to live up to his potential

For Sale, the Cipriani issue is a sideshow to a terrible season that started with a 43-6 hammering at Exeter.

After they lost at home to promoted London Welsh three games later,
forwards coach Steve Scott was dismissed. Bryan Redpath, the new
director of rugby, was about to be demoted in a shake-up carried out by
chief executive Steve Diamond.

Diamond talked about bringing in a ‘yard dog’ to give Sale more bite and
recruited Mitchell, who was a player-coach at the club 14 years ago, to
help a new management team.

But the link-up might come to an end in February if Mitchell, who has
ties in South Africa, takes up television work for the Super 15 season.

Sale have had a round of cost-cutting while back-room officials were
embroiled in a row on Friday with supporters who complained they had
been abused by a staff member on Facebook for moaning too much. ‘Utter
shambles,’ retorted a fan.

Sale Sharks media chief slams fans on Facebook for complaining after 62-0 defeat

You f*******! Sale media chief slams fans on Facebook and Cipriani loses place in squad

|

UPDATED:

14:22 GMT, 21 December 2012

The woman in charge of Sale's social media operation appears to have lambasted the club's moaning fans as 'f*******' on Facebook in the wake of the club's crushing 62-0 Heineken Cup thrashing to Toulon.

Fans reacted with outrage after Holleh Nowrouz appeared to slam fans who complained the club should spend more time on training than on blogs and social media sites.

Humiliation: Sale were hammered by Toulon in the Heineken Cup

Humiliation: Sale were hammered by Toulon in the Heineken Cup

Sharks supporters hit back on blogs and
forums, one angry fan wrote: 'Well thats just about typical from this
franchise. Utter shambles, kick anybody out who cares about Sale / the
fans, replace them with utter F*******, who have no idea…brilliant.'

Paying the price: Cipriani has been dropped by Sale

Paying the price: Cipriani has been dropped by Sale

The reversal was the club's heaviest Heineken
Cup defeat as the French outfit showed their title credentials with a
crushing victory at Stade Felix Mayol.

Meanwhile, Danny Cipriani's future at Sale has been thrown into doubt after Director of Rugby John Mitchell sensationally axed him from the 23-man playing squad that is set to be announced.

The news comes as a massive blow to Cipriani who had hoped to resurrect his career in England after he cut short his spell at Melbourne Rebels.

The 25-year-old fly-half has paid the price following Sale's humiliation at the hands of Toulon.

He returned home early from a spell in Australia where controversy stemmed from late-night antics including a broken curfew and a suspension instigated by his team-mates.

After some patchy form Down Under, with particular concerns about defensive vulnerability, Cipriani's fresh start in English rugby had been seen an opportunity for him to revitalise his career and his reputation.

Jonny Wilkinson: Decision on Toulon future in February

Decision on my Toulon future can wait until February, says England legend Wilkinson

|

UPDATED:

20:01 GMT, 19 December 2012

[headerlinks]

Jonny Wilkinson will make a decision on his future at double-chasing Toulon next February.

Toulon have offered the 33-year-old, who is pushing for a Lions place next summer, a contract extension but he has yet to commit himself for another season.

He said: 'I believe the club may very well decide to stick with me, but before I make my decision I need to know if I can bring something positive to the team.'

Enlarge

Jonny Wilkinson

Back in form: Wilko is playing some of the best rugby of his career with the French leaders

Wilkinson is in his fourth season
following his move from Newcastle in 2009 and has become a firm
favourite at the high-spending club, who lead the French championship
and are on course for a quarter-final place in the Heineken Cup.

The success has prompted questions of
whether Toulon can win both competitions and Wilkinson believes the
squad's strength in depth means they can deliver silverware.

He said: 'It would be the best way to reward them. If you ask me if we can do the double, I say yes.

'I take great pleasure from playing
for Toulon and especially this season. Personally, I'm never satisfied,
but I'm happy to be that way.'

Jonny Wilkinson playing for the GB and Irish Lions

Lionheart: Wilkinson could be given the chance to finish his career playing with the Lions in Australia

Wilkinson added: 'We're winning games
and progressing. 'The team are moving in the right direction but the
most important thing is the mindset of the group and the energy we
transmit.'

Wilkinson said he always has the
desire to play but added: 'Just like when I came to the end of my
contract at Newcastle, I didn't make the decision for myself but for the
club.

'The question is not, “What do I
want” but, “What do the coaches and the other players want from me”
'If I can answer that, then I can start thinking about what I would like
from a perfect world. 'But that is not a priority for me.'

Scotland are set to appoint
Australian Scott Johnson as interim head coach in succession to Andy
Robinson, who stood down after the disastrous autumn internationals, in
which the Scots lost all three matches.

The Scottish Rugby Union look set to confirm the appointment of the experienced 50-year-old before Christmas.

Johnson, who joined Robinson's coaching team last summer, has previously coached Wales and the USA Eagles.

Jonny Wilkinson might retire at the end of the season with eye on possible Lions swansong

Wilkinson could retire at the end of the season with eye on possible Lions swansong

|

UPDATED:

17:00 GMT, 19 December 2012

Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson may retire from rugby at the end of the season after admitting he will decide on his future in February.

The 33-year-old retired from international rugby after last year's World Cup having won 91 caps for England and the British and Irish Lions.

He has helped Toulon to first place in France's Top 14 this season but his current contract expires at the end of the season and he has today confessed he will only continue playing if it benefits the French side.

Enlarge

Jonny Wilkinson

Back in form: Wilko is playing some of the best rugby of his career with the French leaders

'I'm capable of carrying on, but it's a delicate balance,' Wilkinson said in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe.

'The question isn't what I would like to do, but what is best for my team. After I've asked myself that question, then I'll think about myself.'

Wilkinson is confident Toulon can win the Heineken Cup this season.
'Can we do the double I say, yes,' Wilkinson said. 'I'm never satisfied, but I'm happy with how we've played. We're heading in the right direction.'

Wilkinson thinks star-studded Toulon, which is packed with proven test players such as flyhalf Frederic Michalak, 91-test veteran Matt Giteau of Australia and former South Africa lock Bakkies Botha, is one of the best he's played in.

Jonny Wilkinson playing for the GB and Irish Lions

Lionheart: Wilkinson could be given the chance to finish his career playing with the Lions in Australia

'Everyone knows their role,” Wilkinson said. 'The most important thing is the rapport between the players, and that's where we're lucky.'

Should Wilkinson decide to retire at the end of the season, his swansong could be with the Lions tour to Australia in June, if he's selected.

Wilkinson was recently offered encouragement in his bid to be called up after one of Warren Gatland's three assistants Rob Howley confirmed that the fly half was being seriously considered for a place in the Lions squad that will tour in 2013.

Saracens 19 Munster 13: Match report

Saracens 19 Munster 13: Farrell's boot edges Sarries closer to Heineken Cup qualification

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 16 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

17:57 GMT, 16 December 2012

Owen Farrell edged the battle of the erratic goal-kickers as Saracens won a compelling contest against Munster at Vicarage Road to top Pool One of the Heineken Cup.

With two games remaining in the pool stage, Saracens hold a two-point advantage over Racing Metro and a three-point cushion over Munster who now have it all to do to remain in the competition.

Saracens were deserved winners, overcoming the loss of Will Fraser to the sin bin, but had to rely on 14 points from the boot of Farrell for their success.

Just bootiful: Owen Farrell was the difference for Saracens

Just bootiful: Owen Farrell was the difference for Saracens

Munster grabbed an interception try from Doug Howlett but failed to take advantage of Fraser's absence and two late misses from Ronan O'Gara cost them dearly.

The game began with a spark as the first ruck culminated in a heated melee between the packs, resulting in a warning being given to the captains.

The opening minutes were frenetic as both sides harried each other into mistakes. Saracens had the first sustained attack and the first scoring chance but Farrell's 25-metre drop-goal attempt sailed narrowly wide.

After eight minutes, Farrell was given another opportunity and this time he was on target with a long-range penalty.

A poor kick from Farrell, which went straight to Simon Zebo, gave Munster their first chance to counter-attack. O'Gara produced an exquisite chip over the top for Zebo to collect but a knock-on by hooker Mike Sherry prevented the move from developing.

On the charge: Schalk Brits of Saracens is tackled by Peter O'Mahoney

On the charge: Schalk Brits of Saracens is tackled by Peter O'Mahoney

Saracens conceded a penalty at the resulting scrum but O'Gara fired wide, however moments later the outside-half made no mistake with his second effort after Farrell had been penalised for not releasing.

Munster suffered a setback when full-back Felix Jones limped off, to be replaced by Luke O'Dea, but although Saracens had marginally the better of the first quarter it was still 3-3 at the end of it.

However after 22 minutes, the hosts scored the opening try when Farrell's clever chip through saw David Strettle easily win the race for the touchdown which Farrell converted.

Back came Munster to tie up the scores. Farrell's loose pass on half-way was intercepted by James Downey, and although the centre was caught by Strettle he got the ball away to Howlett who scored for O'Gara to convert.

Mixed emotions: Saracens pack celebrate winnning a late scrum as the dejected Munster forwards look on

Mixed emotions: Saracens pack celebrate winnning a late scrum as the dejected Munster forwards look on

Saracens continued to dominate in terms of possession and territory but they could not make it count at that stage.

Strettle was hauled down just short of the line and Farrell missed a penalty so it remained at 10-10 at the interval.

When O'Dea fumbled an up-an-under early in the second half, it allowed Saracens a position in the visitors 22. Munster were penalised but again Farrell could not take advantage.

Against the run of play, O'Gara put his aside ahead with a penalty after Downey nailed his former Northampton colleague Chris Ashton, who was penalised for not releasing.
Farrell responded with a simple penalty after Munster offended at a scrum and minutes later kicked another to give Saracens a 16-13 lead going into the final quarter.

Saracens suffered a huge blow when Will Fraser was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Howlett.

Munster immediately piled on the pressure for their best period of the match but O'Gara's drop goal and penalty attempts both missed the target.

Saracens survived the onslaught and it was left to Farrell to seal a crucial victory with a penalty four minutes from time.

Treviso 13 Leicester 14: Tigers" Heineken Cup hopes back on track after last gasp penalty try

Treviso 13 Leicester 14: Tigers' Heineken Cup hopes back on track after last gasp penalty try

PUBLISHED:

16:49 GMT, 15 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

21:35 GMT, 15 December 2012

Richard Cockerill was left seething after a controversial penalty try almost derailed his team's Heineken Cup hopes.

But it was a second penalty try two minutes from time – this time for Leicester – that got the Tigers out of jail and took them top of Pool Two.

Victory salute: Leicester Tigers players salute their fans after winning in Italy

Touching down: Thompstone of Leicester tucked away a try after 14 minutes

That was only after Irish referee
Alain Rolland frustrated Leicester with his award of a first-half
penalty try, even though Treviso's pack were still 20 yards from the
line.

Leicester coach Cockerill said: 'I
have never seen anything like it in the 30 years that I have been
involved with rugby. If that had been awarded for us I would have sat in
my chair in embarrassment.'

Trailing 13-7 with the final whistle
looming and Treviso eyeing a famous win, Cockerill's men ground out the
winning score as their power in the scrum finally told.

George Ford held his nerve to convert and send Leicester ahead of Toulouse in the standings.

Cockerill said: 'We're obviously
very relieved. Treviso made us work exceptionally hard but you have to
congratulate our players for sticking in there.'

Ben Youngs set up Adam Johnstone on 14 minutes but Alberto Di Bernardo kicked Treviso ahead before the drama.

Richard Cockerill, Leicester Tigers Head Coach

Back on track: Richard Cockerill's men have lived to fight another day

Pool Two now looks like a three-way
fight, with Ospreys beating Toulouse in the other fixture. The Tigers'
final day fixture against the French side is likely to decide their
destiny.

For Treviso,
progression from the group has never really been a realistic goal, but
there was much pride to play for having perfumed so well in the reverse
fixture, only to come away with nothing.

Once again they deserved so much better after an heroic effort.

Alberto Di Bernardo kicked everything that came his way for Franco Smith's men.

Harlequins 53 Zebre 5: Heineken Cup Pool Three rout

Harlequins 53 Zebre 5: Robshaw keeps his promise as Italians are brushed aside

|

UPDATED:

21:07 GMT, 15 December 2012

Captain Chris Robshaw promised that Harlequins would make a name for themselves in Europe after they won the Premiership and Saturday's thumping victory means they can enjoy Christmas on the brink of ensuring a home Heineken Cup quarter-final.

No team will fancy a trip to the Stoop to take on a Quins side brimming with confidence, although few will be as poor as Italian minnows Zebre, formed only last May after the Aironi team hit financial problems and had their licence revoked by the Italian Rugby Federation.

Zebra cross: Danny Care of Quins celebrates as he runs in a try

Zebra cross: Danny Care of Quins celebrates as he runs in a try

Two more victories in Pool Three would give director of rugby Conor O'Shea's Quins top seeding in the knockout stages.

'We want to be successful here and we all vowed to kick on after winning the Premiership last May,' said O'Shea.

'If you see how we've done so far
this season, we've won 13 out of 16 games, we're top of the Premiership,
we're top of our Heineken Cup pool unbeaten, we've won both LV Cup
games so far and we're in the A League final, so we are definitely doing
OK. But we don't just want to win this pool, we want a home
quarterfinal.'

Bearing in mind Quins have won all
four Pool Three games so far, already lead second-placed Biarritz by ten
points and have Connacht at home in four weeks before a final trip to
Biarritz, they are superbly placed.

On the run: Ugo Monye evades a tackle from Zebra's Giovanbattista Venditti (left)

On the run: Ugo Monye evades a tackle from Zebra's Giovanbattista Venditti (left)

To put Zebre's quality into
perspective, they came to south-west London on the back of ten straight
defeats in their first ten games in the RaboDirect Pro12 League.

They have gained only four losing
bonus points and three successive defeats in this Heineken Cup pool –
including last weekend's 57-15 home setback to Quins – indicate their
dire lack of class.

Saturday was no better, with Quins
running in seven tries – two in the first half from Tom Casson and a
penalty try, and five after the break from Ben Botica, Tom Guest, Sam
Smith, Danny Care and Karl Dickson.

Nick Evans scored 18 points with eight successful kicks out of nine attempts. Zebre managed one response in the first half.

Turning heads: Chris Robshaw is wrapped up by the the Zebre defence

Turning heads: Chris Robshaw is wrapped up by the the Zebre defence

To put Zebre's quality into
perspective, they came to south-west London on the back of ten straight
defeats in their first ten games in the RaboDirect Pro12 League.

They have gained only four losing
bonus points and three successive defeats in this Heineken Cup pool –
including last weekend's 57-15 home setback to Quins – indicate their
dire lack of class.

Saturday was no better, with Quins
running in seven tries – two in the first half from Tom Casson and a
penalty try, and five after the break from Ben Botica, Tom Guest, Sam
Smith, Danny Care and Karl Dickson.

Nick Evans scored 18 points with eight successful kicks out of nine attempts. Zebre managed one response in the first half.

That prompted O'Shea to question why
the visitors – who simply add weight to the Anglo-French TV row with the
ERC at the moment over involving more English and French teams and
fewer from the smaller nations in the tournament – are even in the
Heineken Cup.

Six appeal: Sam Smith runs in to score his side's sixth try

Six appeal: Sam Smith runs in to score his side's sixth try

That is before there is even a
discussion over the absurdity of Zebre, one of just two Italian clubs in
the competition, receiving three times as much money as Quins, who are
one of six English clubs taking part.

'We shared the same hotel as Zebre in
August in the south of France for pre-season and their players were
meeting up for the first time,' said O'Shea.

'It was difficult in this game
because we were so superior that it became a mental challenge. You're
damned if you do and damned if you don't. And it makes no sense for
Zebre to get three times as much money as we do for playing in this
competition.

Pass master: Tom Casson offloads the ball

Pass master: Tom Casson offloads the ball

'We won the Amlin Cup three times,
the last time, in 2011, serving as a launchpad for our recent successes,
so that competition should be good enough for a team like Zebre.

'They should have no divine right to
play in the Heineken Cup. It does Italian rugby no good – either for
their fans or commercially – to see Zebre stuffed like this.'

Few at the Stoop will disagree with
that sentiment although, as the happy home fans ventured into the night,
the talk was centred upon Harlequins adding European glory to domestic
silverware.