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Challenge Cup final preview: O’Shea relishing chance at redemption in last Harlequins game

Harlequins’ European final on Friday feels more like a Champions Cup outing than Challenge, according to departing director of rugby Conor O’Shea.

The Irishman’s side will face Montpellier in Lyon with the Challenge Cup up for grabs, but also a spot in next season’s Champions Cup.

The sides have already met twice in the competition this season, Harlequins comfortably beating Montpellier at the Stoop but falling to a similar defeat in the south of France.

The French side – coached by South African World Cup winner Jake White – are flying high in the Top 14 this season.

They sit second behind Clermont and O’Shea feels the quality that will be on display is more befitting of the premier European competition, rather than the second tier.

“It's a Champions Cup final in so many ways, except it's in the Challenge Cup,” said O’Shea.

“I've no doubt there'll be little things that make the difference in the match. It can be a moment of magic from whoever – we'll fire bullets just like they'll fire them.

“That's the mental side. We have to understand that there are two good teams out there. There are two teams that can get momentum and when you're at your best you can ride those waves.”

Harlequins go into the game on the back of a heavy defeat in the final Aviva Premiership Rugby round last weekend that cost them an automatic place in the Champions Cup.

O’Shea said he has not yet got over the disappointment of that performance, but he must move on for what will be his final match in charge of Harlequins.

“Obviously last weekend wasn't great preparation and the last few weeks have been tough, but I think we've talked enough about the challenge that we'll be ready for it. If I could play, I'd play,” he added.

“We mope and we’ll miss out on an opportunity. It was certainly not the way I envisaged that game going but sport does that to you sometimes.

“We quickly drew a line under it, not trying to hide anything but we need to focus on Friday and let the emotion be the one we will feel on Friday night. It’s a massive game.”

Joe Marler returns for the game after a two-week ban picked up in the semi-final victory over Grenoble.

The loose-head prop played against Montpellier at the Stoop but missed the second fixture and admitted he did not realise how well they were performing domestically or the fact that they have 12 South Africans in their squad.

“It is going to be a good game because I didn’t actually realise that they were second in the Top 14 and how many South Africa players that they’ve actually got,” said the England forward.

“You know what comes with South African players; it’s physicality, brutality and route one.

“They’re going really well and obviously last week wasn’t a highlight for many of us at the club – so there will be a bit of wanting to end more positively than we did last week, and then obviously there’s getting your hands on the silverware and that Champions Cup spot next year.

“If you want to be playing in the best games then you’ve got to be playing in the best tournament and that’s what we want.”

Harlequins team to face Montpellier
15. Mike Brown
14. Marland Yarde
13. George Lowe
12. Jamie Roberts
11. Tim Visser
10. Nick Evans
9. Danny Care (C)

1. Joe Marler
2. Joe Gray
3. Adam Jones
4. James Horwill
5. Sam Twomey
6. Chris Robshaw
7. Luke Wallace
8. Nick Easter

16.Dave Ward
17. Mark Lambert
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Mat Luamanu
20. Jack Clifford
21. Karl Dickson
22. Ben Botica
23. Ross Chisholm

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