Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea is hoping for a winning start to their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign against Castres on Friday as they look to qualify from Pool 2 (Harlequins 9/2 Pool 2 Winner).
The Londoners are one of seven English top-flight sides in this season’s revamped European competition and will also face fellow Aviva Premiership side Wasps and Pro 12 outfit Leinster in the group stage.
The winner of each of the five pools will advance to the quarter-finals, with the three top-ranked runners-up also progressing to the knock-out stage.
Quins will head into the clash after an indifferent start to the season domestically as three wins and three losses sees them sit in seventh place in the Premiership table with 15 points from six games played.
But Castres have also struggled in the Top 14 across the Channel and have won only three of their nine games to date to rest 12th in the standings.
But O’Shea is refusing to read too much into what has happened to both clubs in the early part of the season and is expecting nothing less than a full-blooded contest at the Stoop.
“Like us they have had an indifferent start to the season but like us that will change so it will be massive on Friday night,” he said.
And the Irish tactician, while admitting that their pool could easily be termed ‘the group of death’, is relishing the prospect of taking on the big boys of Europe once again (Toulon 3/1 fav Tournament Outright).
“I looked at our pool when it was drawn and I thought: ‘That’s horrific’,” he added. “But when I looked at all the others I thought ‘well they’re horrific as well’. It’s tough but exciting.”