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'It's starting to heat up': Harlequins give director of rugby search update seven weeks after Paul Gustard's exit

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Harlequins general manager Billy Millard has delivered an update on the Gallagher Premiership club’s search for a new director of rugby seven weeks after Paul Gustard surprisingly exited The Stoop and was quickly snapped up by Benetton, the Italian Guinness PRO14 outfit.

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Appointed in 2018 in succession to John Kingston, Gustard parted ways with Harlequins on January 20 and Millard, who is currently set to oversee Quins through to the end of the season, suggested eight days later there was scope for Gustard’s yet-to-be-identified successor to perhaps come on board before the 2020/21 campaign reaches its conclusion.

“I have been involved in other environments where people become available and maybe with five games to go they come in respectfully and get a lay of the land so they are not coming in cold pre-season,” he said on January 28.

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Six weeks later, Millard has now provided an update as to where exactly Harlequins are in this search for their new man. “The process has started and there are some conversations going on,” he said when asked by RugbyPass at the club’s weekly media conference what the current state of play post-Gustard is.

“Some of that I’m involved in, some I’m not. That is being worked through as we speak and is starting I guess to heat up in the next three weeks. It’s important that we take our time and we make the right decision.”

Millard revealed in January that Owen Eastwood, a performance culture expert, had been working at the club over the winter, conducting a warts-and-all review of Harlequins. It was said at the time this review was more than half done but it still hasn’t been completed. “It’s still ongoing,” said Millard, adding that the review would tie in with the search for Gustard’s successor. “Those discussions are a part of the work we were doing with Owen.”

The outlook at Harlequins is currently much sunnier than it was when Gustard departed. Five of the six Premiership matches played since the exit of their director of rugby have been won, lifting Quins into third place on the table ahead of this Saturday’s trip to second place Exeter, the defending champions.

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Millard claims he isn’t in the least bit surprised by the club’s improved fortunes, stating that he had every faith the coaching staff who had worked under Gustard would step up and show their worth. “They are all very experienced rugby eyes and they have been working together for a long time. Good relationships with the players, so no it wasn’t a surprise.

“Everyone has just stepped into power and done their jobs really well, from medical staff to S&C, the coaching group. There was a disruption but they have been so impressive, their work ethic, their smarts, their composure, and to be honest the playing group as well.

“We put a bit more ownership on them, that they naturally have to step up and help the coaches, and it has been impressive to sit back and watch everyone work together from six weeks ago. There is no magic secret, everyone is just doing their job really well and working well together.”

    

   

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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