Aviva Premiership Preview
Quins keen to push on
August 31, 2010
Ollie Smith has linked up with Harlequins after a spell in France with Montpellier © Getty Images
Last season: 8th
Ins: Welcome back Ollie Smith. The England centre is back on home soil after a two-year stay in France. His days at Montpellier could well have swelled his bank account but he never caught the eye of the England selection net. Smith has joined a Quins squad who spent last season regrouping after the 'Bloodgate' saga and the departure of Dean Richards. If he finds his best form then Smith, who was guided by Richards at Leicester, will be a more than a decent replacement for Gonzalo Tiesi, who has left for Stade Francais. Quins' other stand-out signing is the ex-Samoan international from St Helens rugby league in Maurie Fa'asavalu. He made his name in the 2003 Rugby World Cup before going on to making 163 appearances for Saints, supplying 39 tries. He was a rampaging prop in the 13-a-side game but looks set for a back-row role again in union. Three other new forwards who should figure are Newcastle lock Peter Browne, Northampton hooker Joe Gray and an unheralded Argentinian prop in Benjamin Urdapilleta.
Out: Goodbye David Strettle. The England wing evidently wanted too much money for Quins to balance the salary cap so he promptly sped round the M25 to join Saracens. Injury meant Strettle was never quite the force he should have been at the Stoop though he remains, when fit, one of England's best finishers. Saxons centre Nils Mordt has also joined Saracens while long-serving hooker Tani Fuga has opted for retirement after a well deserved testimonial. The Samoan upset plenty of opponents up and down the Premiership. Quins will miss his him.
Coach: Conor O'Shea had a quiet introduction when he joined as the replacement for Dean Richards in March. The honeymoon period is now well and truly over for an experienced director of rugby whose impressive CV includes stints in a tracksuit at London Irish and behind a desk at the English Institute of Sport. He will now be judged on results and will be expecting to lift Quins above the disappointing eighth place of last season.
Prediction: Pressure on. The 'Bloodgate' excuse is over. Quins need to start reproducing the form that made them Heineken Cup quarter-finalists two years ago. They will likely be mid-table at best, though. Are they strong enough up front?
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