Quins proving a pull

MARK EVANS has revealed Harlequins have received “quite a few approaches” to succeed the disgraced Dean Richards as their director of rugby.

And club chief executive Evans believes an appointment will probably be made before Christmas as Quins look to regroup after the Bloodgate fake injury scandal.

Richards was the biggest casualty of arguably the most damaging scandal to rock English rugby.

He resigned from his post at Quins in August, and then received a three-year worldwide coaching ban for orchestrating the fake injury and subsequent cover-up.

It all happened during last season’s Heineken Cup quarter-final between Quins and Leinster as Richards desperately tried to get injured goalkicker Nick Evans back on the field in a game his team eventually lost 6-5.

Wing Tom Williams was instructed to bite a blood capsule and feign injury. He landed a year’s suspension — reduced to four months on appeal — while ex-Quins physiotherapist Steph Brennan was banned for two years.

Quins were also hit by a substantial six-figure fine, but they avoided an ultimate sanction of expulsion from this season’s Heineken Cup, a European campaign they begin away to Cardiff Blues on Saturday week.

Ian McGeechan, British and Irish Lions head coach in South Africa earlier this summer, has been linked to the Quins vacancy. Evans though, was keeping cards close to his chest at today’s United Kingdom launch of the Heineken Cup in Reading.

“We are searching,” said Evans. “We are talking to a few people. We’ve got our preferences, which we will keep to ourselves, and we’ve had quite a few approaches.

“I would like to think the fundamentals of the club and the way the club is progressing is an attractive proposition.

“How financially stable is the organisation? What’s the structure? What are the facilities like? What’s the academy like? There are a whole host of things that need to be weighed up.

“I would like to think we tick, maybe not all the boxes, but quite a few.

“Whatever structure you’ve got, probably more so for a provincial or club team in this part of the world, because it is such a long season and the job is becoming so much broader, it is an absolutely key appointment.”

Whoever arrives at the Twickenham Stoop as Richards’ successor though, will need to work with an existing coaching team headed by John Kingston. Evans said the positions of Kingston and his fellow coaches Colin Osborne and Tony Diprose were non-negotiable.

“We have very experienced coaches,” he added.

“John has been in the game since it went professional, and before it. Technically, he’s excellent, and the players like him.

“Colin Osborne has been at the club for 15 years, in various different roles. He’s a super attack coach.

“And Tony Diprose has got a great rugby brain — he is going to be an exceptional coach. He’s got a great future in the game.

“They all get on well, so why would we want to change that?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we made an announcement (rugby director) before Christmas.

“If you put your ideal person there, he would probably have experience of the English game — we’ve got a lot of English players.

“I think it is a question of knowing the game in this part of the world. I am loathe to say a name, because I know what will happen then.”

Quins’ Premiership form so far this season — a draw and three defeats in four games — suggests a hangover from Bloodgate.

And life is not about to get any easier, with Quins drawn in the same group as French giants Toulouse, last season’s Heineken semi-finalists Cardiff Blues and Premiership rivals Sale Sharks.

Many followers of the sport though, believe they are just fortunate to be in the tournament.

“I don’t think there is one answer,” said Evans, assessing Quins’ early-season run.

“I don’t think the sending-off (of Quins lock George Evans) helped in the first minute of the season; we’ve had some injuries in key positions, and I think the summer probably had a bit of an effect as well, but I wouldn’t say it is by any means the only factor.”

As for those who have questioned Quins’ Heineken Cup participation this term, he added: “I wouldn’t say anything to them. People are entitled to their view.”

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