Yesterday afternoon the Harlequins played Wasps away in the Premiership and lost 37-6. By all accounts, especially those on the fans’ website, the losers’ performance was right up there with the most insipid, disinterested and un-Quins-like that anyone can recall since we won our sole Premiership title in 2011/2012.
Fortunately for his blood pressure – and only because the Quins game was not being shown on television – your author is pleased to report that he was otherwise engaged watching BBC1’s live coverage of Wales’ narrow 26-23 victory over Scotland in the Six Nations and therefore knows no more about the Wasps debacle than his fellow readers who may have glanced at match reports online or in the newspapers.
I don’t want to review Quins’ season – or indeed the issues arising from yesterday’s defeat – but the fact is that, since winning the title, we have at best stood still whilst our fellow Premiership clubs have continued to develop year-on-year. The English Premiership is ever more competitive. Forget the embarrassment of the promoted London Welsh this season, there are now eight (or nine?) teams out of the twelve which – on any given day – can beat any other.
At the bottom line – allowing for the physical and attritional nature of rugby which renders both long-term and niggling injuries a constant issue, the unsettling vagaries of international call-ups and the depth of owners’ pockets when it comes to establishing and maintaining the strength of playing squads – I lay responsibility for results squarely at the feet of the club coaches.
In Quins’ case, Conor O’Shea inherited most of his coaching group and the current set have been together for five seasons and counting, given recent contract renewals. I’m not sure that’s healthy. There’s an argument that in most large organisations worth their salt, four to five years is the maximum that any top executive or management team should be in office. Things need freshening up from time to time. It certainly feels that way on the playing side of things at Quins.
These days whenever Conor begins an interview with the phrase “If we can just get our game on the pitch …” I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The sad fact is that at the moment there are four or five Premiership sides playing the inventive, attacking, entertaining off-loading Quins way far better than we are!