Harlequins head coach John Kingston believes his side’s recent success was built on their stunning victory at Thomond Park two years ago and insists that the spectre of Bloodgate will have no impact on their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Munster in April.
Harlequins are back in the last eight of Europe’s premier competition for the first time since they hosted Leinster in 2009 – a game in which wing Tom Williams bit on a fake blood capsule to send English rugby into meltdown.
Williams, director of rugby Dean Richards and the club doctor were all banned from the sport as a result, and Kingston admitted the incident set Quins’ development back by at least a year.
And Kingston says the incident would have been brought up again if Leinster were the opponents at the Stoop in April – but is adamant his side have happier memories of facing Munster.
Quins produced an outstanding display to win their Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final 20-12 at Thomond in April 2010, and they then went on to win that competition and last season’s Aviva Premiership.
For Kingston that was the key result in the evolution of the Premiership leaders and hopes they can build on it in three months time.
“I agree that result at Thomond was absolutely vital in our development,” said Kingston. “It was very important in that it created the ability in this group to win a trophy – which we did. You talk a lot in sport about having belief, but belief only comes when you win things. The fact that we won that trophy gave us so much knowledge and belief.
“I think those of us that have been here a while, such as myself, felt we were making significant strides up to four years ago when we played in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals the last time.
“The events of that notorious match meant there were changes within the organisation and there was a genuine setback to the whole development of the group.
“Do I think the events of that game against Leinster will have an impact this time? No. What happened then is totally irrelevant now.
“It was relevant the following year when we came back into the Heineken Cup, but it is way gone now.
The reality is about the here and now, and this team going out to do what they can to progress further in the competition, as I am sure Munster will.”
And despite Harlequins qualifying for the last eight as top seeds, Kingston has warned Munster they will have improved by the time of the quarter-finals. “At the moment we don’t think we are at the levels we can aspire to. We think we need to improve and will look to do so.”
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