Quins boss O’Shea plots downfall of ‘hero’ Elwood

Conor O’Shea believes outgoing Connacht coach Eric Elwood deserves hero status out west but does not want to add to the legacy of his former Ireland team-mate this weekend.

O’Shea’s Harlequins face Connacht at The Stoop on Saturday and a home tie in the Heineken Cup quarter-final can be secured by the hosts with a convincing win.

The RTÉ analyst described his team’s 30-22 win in Galway last November as “returning to the scene of the crime” following a 9-8 humbling and their pool stage elimination at the Sportsground this time last year.

O’Shea insisted: “Our guys respect Connacht; they play with massive ambition and I’ve spoken before about the heroic regard Eric should be held in.

“But I do not want him to go out on any sort of a high. We are in pole position to get out of our pool. We’ve played 19 games overall [this season] and have won 16.”

Six wins from six games in Pool 3 is not the driving ambition, argues O’Shea, but securing a home aquarter-final is top of the Premiership side’s agenda.

“We can go a long way to securing a home tie by winning at the weekend. We’re focused on bringing out the best of our game at The Stoop. If we can do that, and follow our process, we’ll do all right.”

The former Irish international fullback admitted his surprise that former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan was not interviewed for the top job at Connacht next season.

O’Shea and O’Sullivan briefly crossed paths in the Irish set-up when the Youghal native was assistant coach to Warren Gatland.

The westerner’s strategy of locating and developing young players, rather than relying wholesale on imports, was borne out when ex-Ospreys coach Sean Holley revealed he had turned down the coaching role next season.

O’Shea said, “If you don’t know the [selection] process, it is ridiculous to pass comment. Without knowing the full story, I’d say it was a surprise that Eddie’s name has not come up. He seems like a pretty obvious candidate with an outstanding CV. Sometimes, though, clubs are looking for different types for different roles. A number of outstanding candidates have been named in the papers but that is one thing and the actual list is another.

“Whoever comes in is going to be very lucky and there is someone like [assistant coach] Dan McFarland there who will do his best to see the process through.”

O’Shea believes the next head coach at Connacht will inherit a “very talented side” despite the loss, this summer, of Leinster-bound lock Mike McCarthy. He said, “In Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion they have two exciting young players and, with lads like Denis Buckley and Eoin Griffin, they are starting to add some depth. They have Dan Parks in now and he’s pulling the strings.

“We know exactly how good they are but we’re a good side too. I really hope it is a good day. People go on about Connacht preferring to play in bad conditions but they’ve got it all wrong. You could see the damage they did to Biarritz at home on a clear night. There are two teams that won’t be trying to slow the ball down.”

O’Shea added: “It’s disappointing for Connacht when you look at the number of players that have left, such as Sean Cronin, Ian Keatley, Jamie Hagan, Fionn Carr. When you add them all up you could say that they would have made a heck of a team. Mike McCarthy will move on but that’s rugby; people move on.”

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