O'Shea backs Easter for England return
September 22, 2012
Nick Easter: That was the ultimate challenge
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea called on England head coach Stuart Lancaster to bring Nick Easter back into the England squad.
Lancaster and one of his assistants Graham Rowntree were in the Welford Road stands to watch as the No.8 put in a man-of-the-match performance as Quins beat Leicester Tigers 22-9 in a repeat of last season's Premiership final. Easter hasn't featured for England since the end of the World Cup. Since then Lancaster has made Gloucester's Ben Morgan his first choice with Leicester's Thomas Waldrom as back-up.
"To me he is the best number eight in England. I don't care whether you are 19 or 34, if you are the best you are the best," O'Shea said. "For the last year he has been playing absolutely unbelievable rugby for us and long may that continue. And it will because he has got the bit between his teeth. I thought he was magnificent tonight, taking the fight to them. He drives the group; he is incredibly ambitious and proud. He has not written off his international career. (New Zealand's) Brad Thorne was older than he was playing in and winning the last World Cup. If he can keep himself in shape and plays the rugby he does, he will knock his way back in there."
Harlequins' victory was their first at Welford Road since the start of the Premiership and leaves them top of the Premiership, one point clear of Northampton Saints. Tom Williams' try in the first half gave Harlequins the momentum to grab control of the match and Nick Evans kept the score ticking over, while Danny Care dropped a goal. Toby Flood's three penalties were all Leicester could muster in response.
"Any time you come to Leicester and get a win is exceptional," O'Shea said. "It's only four games in 22 and next week we play Saracens but I could not be prouder of the guys because they put the effort in and showed a willingness to play. We know we need to be more clinical but it is early doors and we are happy with how we are progressing."
For Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill, the result was the worst possible response to the 9-9 stalemate with Saracens in the previous round of matches. He now expects a big improvement when Exeter Chiefs visit the East Midlands next Saturday and refused to blame the absence of Manu Tuilagi and Geordan Murphy for the loss.
"We lacked composure when we had opportunities, which is disappointing," he said. "We need to be better at taking those opportunities. There was a vital part in the second half when we had a run of line-outs which we cocked up. But they came and played and fair play to them. They ran hard and played well, they are a good side. I don't care who is missing though, we have to be better and more clinical."
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