England hopeful Marland Yarde is refusing to indulge in the tidal wave of emotional platitudes engulfing outgoing director of rugby Conor O’Shea as Harlequins bid for European Challenge Cup glory against Montpellier tonight.
The clash at the Grand Stade de Lyon will mark the end of O’Shea’s six-year tenure at the Twickenham Stoop as he vacates south-west London to succeed Jacques Brunel as head coach of the Italian national team.
Veteran No8 Nick Easter yesterday became the latest Quins player to declare that the Harlequins squad want to hand former Ireland full-back O’Shea the ideal leaving present in the shape of the club’s fourth Challenge Cup crown.
O’Shea himself, meanwhile, has confirmed that he will go out drinking with players for the first time if they defeat Montpellier and seal the fourth trophy of his reign, but the first since LV= Cup glory in 2013.
While Saint Lucia-born Yarde does not begrudge O’Shea, the man who brought him to the club from London Irish in 2014, the perfect farewell, he simply believes there are wider and more significant ramifications.
“This final is massive. It means everything to us and it’s a good chance to send Conor off on a good note, but he would be the first say that it’s not about him at the end of the day,” Yarde told City A.M.
“He would also be the first to say that he just wants to see [captain] Danny Care lift that trophy and make us a part of history at this club.
“All the boys are really excited about giving back to the group: the players that have been here or are moving on, and all the coaches. As a team we’re massively excited.”
The clash has assumed additional significance since a 62-24 thrashing by Exeter Chiefs on Saturday denied Quins a top-six Premiership finish and a place in next season’s European Champions Cup.
If Quins can dispatch Montpellier – the teams registered a victory apiece against each other during the Challenge Cup group stages – then a place among Europe’s elite beckons next term after all.
“We looked odds-on to finish in that top four earlier in the season but we had a bit of a crumble in that middle part and it is what it is,” added Yarde.
“Momentum left us a little bit during that Six Nations period but we now have to think about the job in hand and that’s the European final.
“If we win it that’s what fans remember, that’s what players remember and what coaches remember, and if we do we’re in the Champions Cup anyway, which makes our season a good one.”
Yarde has been named in Quins’ starting XV for the showdown and will take his place on the wing in what will be his first senior final, while the prospect of lifting silverware is palpable.
“This is why I came to Harlequins in the first place. I wanted to be a part of big European finals and hopefully it will be a memorable one and one of the biggest nights of my life,” said Yarde.
“This is what you get remembered for. What you look back on at the end of your career is winning trophies. I’ve got a first chance to do that and I want to make sure I take it with both hands. I’m ecstatic and can’t wait to get out there. The guys have worked tirelessly hard to get into this position and we’ve left no stone unturned in training. We’ve all got our jobs to do.”
Quins have endured a torrid week after news broke on Wednesday that academy starlet Seb Adeniran-Olule, 20, had been tragically killed in a traffic collision. A minute’s silence will be held before kick-off tonight.
In terms of preparation, Yarde – named in England head coach Eddie Jones’s 26-man squad for next week’s training camp – admits there is a nervous, but healthy, energy in the squad.
“There has been a higher intensity and the guys are perhaps a little bit more apprehensive because we know we have a final coming up,” added the 24-year-old.
“You get excited about this sort of stuff and that’s good for us to have some nerves, a few butterflies, and that will hopefully bring out the best in us.
“The guys are really excited about it and I’m sure we’ll turn up and bring our best game to the party. If we do that then we’re going to give ourselves a real good chance of winning it.”