Paul Gustard is urging his Harlequins players to use Anthony Joshua’s world boxing title triumph to inspire them to victory over Ulster next Friday and keep their Heineken Champions Cup campaign alive.
Harlequins have to bounce back just six days after their debilitating late 25-24 loss to Ulster in Belfast and Quins boss Gustard has shown his squad Joshua’s post-fight interview as an example of how to gain revenge for a narrow loss.
Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr last Saturday to regain the heavyweight world title belts he lost to the same fighter and Gustard believes the motivation that underpinned that win is very relevant heading into the return European fixture with Ulster at the Twickenham Stoop.
After a late John Cooney penalty won the game for Ulster, Gustard and his players watched the Joshua fight live on TV in Belfast and he then used the video of the post-fight interview in a team meeting back at their Surrey training base.
“We have taken a lot of inspiration from Joshua-Ruiz, in particular his post-fight interview when he talked about learning from the first fight, staying humble and learning the lessons having failed the first exam,” said Gustard, the former England defence coach, to RugbyPass.
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“He had good preparation, belief in himself, control of his discipline and emotions and he executed what the coaches asked him to do.
“Those four or five key learnings we showed to the squad and this is our second exam against Ulster and we have a great opportunity to get the result that we want and stay alive in the competition.
“As the saying, goes, it’s not over until the fat lady sings and we have three chances to get three wins (in the pool) and give ourselves an opportunity to progress. As a squad, we had a few beers on Saturday night and watched the Joshua-Ruiz fight because we wanted the boys to have a memory of Belfast and it was a great place to visit.
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– @dan10mcfarland talks to @heagneyl about @UlsterRugby, @JCooney09, @ChampionsCup and the arrival on Saturday of @Harlequins at the Kingspanhttps://t.co/GVa10gOMX9
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 7, 2019
“On Sunday, I saw a video of Joshua’s post-fight interview and that is what I showed the squad. Joshua talked about where his mindset was and how he dusted himself down from the first loss and how he looked at himself rather than the opposition.
“The analogy very simple to see – he fought he same guy twice and we get the chance to play the same opposition six days later and take the learnings from our game which could be opportunities in attack, frailties in defence or set-piece and middle-game management.
“We have identified the critical ones and that is the basis of our game plan that we are working on this week. There is limited time to prepare and we need to focus on the two or three things we can fix.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 2, 2019
Gustard is finding himself having to deal with questions about player contracts at this crucial time of the year, but he insists he is not going to enter into any more public discussions or concentrate on individual players.
England prop Kyle Sinckler is reportedly a target for Bristol while highly-rated flanker Alex Dombrandt is in negotiations for a new Quins contract with Quins.
Gustard said: “Everyone wants to talk about three or four players but I have X-amount of players off contract and to highlight three or four is unfair on the other players and their negotiations. We have decided as a club not to talk about it.”
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