Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Let the Emotion Wreck Our Top-Six Bid; Clifford Warns Quins Ahead of O'Shea's Final Home Game

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Let the Emotion Wreck Our Top-Six Bid; Clifford Warns Quins Ahead of O'Shea's Final Home Game

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

EMOTIONS will be running high when Conor O'Shea takes control of his final Harlequins home game tomorrow with a top-six finish in their sights.

Quins face an Exeter side desperate to clinch second place and secure home advantage in the Premiership play-off semi-finals, where they will almost certainly face Wasps.

However, Quins need victory to hold on to the sixth and final qualifying place for next season's European Champions Cup.

They must stay ahead of Sale, who face lowly Newcastle trailing O'Shea's men by just one point. Northampton, who travel to Gloucester, are one point ahead of Quins so have the advantage of the clubs chasing European rugby on the final day of the regular season.

England flanker Jack Clifford warned his team-mates they must keep their emotions in check.

As well as waving farewell to O'Shea (right), who is becoming Italy boss, Quins are also saying goodbye to outsidehalf Ben Botica, who is off to Montpellier, the team Quins face in the Challenge Cup Final in Lyon a week today.

Clifford said: "We want to finish top six by beating Exeter, then go into the Challenge Cup Final knowing we have already qualified for the Champions Cup. We can't let all the emotion come out in the build-up and I am sure Conor will be keeping calm. It has to be parked to one side and maybe we can have a celebration in Lyon.

"We cannot afford to think about who is leaving and the changes for next season because we have to keep totally focused on these two games, which are so pivotal. As a team, we haven't produced a complete 80-minute performance and there are two more chances to deliver that against a very good Exeter side and then Montpellier in a hostile atmosphere. Winning the Grand Slam with England makes me hungry to achieve more this season and pick up more silverware."

As well as targeting more silverware, Clifford is desperate to start for England against Wales in the Old Mutual Wealth Cup match at Twickenham on May 29 in order to stake his claim for the three-Test series against Australia this summer.

Clifford feels the last club matches are vital to his cause, while winning the Cup will provide another route to automatic qualification for the Champions Cup for Quins. …

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