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Harlequins hit out at critics who claim they 'fluked' title win

By Liam Heagney

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Harlequins assistant Nick Evans and skipper Stephan Lewies have admitted they are heading into next Sunday’s home clash with in-form Saracens determined to highlight how their Premiership title win last season was no fluke and that they are capable of lifting the trophy again. Minus their ousted head of rugby Paul Gustard, Quins came from nowhere to clinch Premiership glory last June for the first time since 2012.  

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Their easy-on-the-eye style of rugby was orchestrated by the swashbuckling Marcus Smith. However, while they provided some exhilarating entertainment, they have since encountered a level of resentment suggesting that a team that only crept into the playoffs in fourth place weren’t worthy winners.  

Also taking away from their achievement was the fact that Saracens, the champions in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, were not in the top-flight following their automatic relegation for repeated breaches of the salary cap. Harlequins have impressively started their title defence, winning four of their five games so far, but they will be eager to get a victory over third-placed Saracens at The Stoop on Sunday to make a point to those who begrudge them their title win.

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“You just have to chat to some of the guys that go into England camp and come back and say this is what is being said,” explained Harlequins assistant Evans. “It’s a funny one because we have got the trophy, it’s in the cabinet and I can go to look at it if I want to, so I know what we did and what we achieved and eleven other teams didn’t do it. 

“People can say what they want. It is one of those things in the background that can drive you and you use for motivation at times but us as a group and an organisation, we just want to improve on what we are and just try and be better to push the boundaries. We are under no illusion that every game now is like a final for us.

“Teams maybe say we fluked it or they don’t think we are worthy champions, but certainly from what we have seen in the first few games of this season we have performed like we are the champions, but we have to make sure that we are on the money very much prepared for every battle. You saw how Sale celebrated when they beat us in Manchester, how excited and how they celebrated that. That in itself gives a bit of confidence to us that a really good team like that who are well-coached sees us in that light. Maybe there are certain sectors of rugby here that think that (we are not worthy champions), but it is not something we really dwell on.”

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This lack of title respect alleged by Evans was something that skipper Lewies also touched on and he too is determined to win a second successive title to put an end to this derogatory talk about Harlequins. “Speaking to other teams and Marcus coming back from the Lions where he spoke to some people, everyone thinks we struck a bit of luck and in hindsight say we didn’t deserve it. This season we still have that tag of underdogs. 

“We like that tag and going into games that way. It fuels us – every time we rock up and people don’t see us as this championship team. Sometimes people still think we don’t deserve it, which is fine. We can express ourselves and play the way we do.

“It’s a great motivation and makes us want to do it again to show that, ‘Listen, it wasn’t a fluke when we did it the first time’. We want to do it again. If we do it two in a row, it will be really tough for people to say, ‘Listen, that was a fluke, you were lucky the first time’. It just feels extra motivation for this season.”

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Harlequins hit out at critics who claim they 'fluked' title win

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