Jerry Flannery has played down the improvement in results that Harlequins have enjoyed since the January departure of Paul Gustard as director of rugby, claiming it is too simplistic for fans to claim the reason why they are playing well is that the director of rugby is no longer at the club.
Having only broken even this season with Gustard at the helm, winning two, drawing one and losing two of their five Gallagher Premiership games, Harlequins went on a four-game winning streak following Gustard’s exit, a run that was only ended by a last-gasp Newcastle penalty last weekend.
Now they are set to host Northampton on Sunday and while the narrative outside the club is how the team have seemingly been unshackled now that Gustard is no longer calling the shots, assistant coach Flannery insists there has been no major change in how Harlequins have gone about the business of playing post-Gustard.
“People complained about the way we were playing before Gussy left but we were still pretty either the top or the second top attacking team in the league, scoring the most tries and the most points – it was ourselves and Wasps,” said Flannery when quizzed by RugbyPass at the club’s weekly media conference.
“Yet we were kicking the ball the most and we still kick the ball the most in the league. You can do the two. It’s just that we are winning now and everyone thinks Quins are playing with smiles on their faces. It’s just because you’re winning.
"I'm glad he is with is. I'm glad he isn't with England at the moment"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 4, 2021
“That is the reality and we haven’t changed a huge amount. We are a man down coaching-wise so all of the coaches, myself, Charlie (Mulchrone), Nick (Evans) and Adam (Jones) all have to step up and own our own areas that little bit more.
“I feel bad for Gussy because I put myself in his position, how tough it would be for him, but it’s also timing. There is an awful lot of timing and just after Gussy left we got a lot of our best players back. It was a testament to Mike Lancaster, the medical department and Gareth Tong that we got so many of our best players fit while a lot of the teams we are playing against are missing some of their best players for international call-ups.
“In all that there are a lot of things people aren’t mentioning. The idea that Gussy left and we just got this big bounce, it’s just such a simplistic narrative. In my opinion, it’s not realistic.”
For Newcastle last weekend, Harlequins opted to make eight changes to their XV, five in the starting pack. That level of upheaval suggests maybe too many alterations were made but Flannery insisted this wasn’t the case.
“We made the changes because if we want to be in the mix come the top four at the very end of the season when that is decided it’s got to be done with the squad and the reality now is because there isn’t game time for other players you have got to try and rotate it around.
“We changed it up but we were confident in the guys that we brought in. Honestly, if we were to pick the team again we would have picked the same team. The guys that came in, like Jack Kenningham’s first game, I thought Jack had a great game and I thought Tyrone Green really came in and performed.
“You are going to lose a little bit of continuity but we trusted the players and we still trust the players that we had enough talent and enough leadership in the team that we selected against Newcastle to win. It was just Newcastle were better on the day.”
Harlequins have now rolled the dice again, making six changes for this Sunday’s visit by Northampton. Danny Care, Mike Brown and Alex Dombrandt are among the players recalled to the starting XV.
Wanna watch Crusaders vs Hurricanes? ?
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 6, 2021
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