Harlequins are on fire both in Aviva Premiership Rugby and on the continent in the Challenge Cup, and up-and-coming lock George Merrick believes the concoction of young and old at the Stoop is the recipe for success.
The 23-year-old second row and young teammates Sam Twomey and Charlie Matthews are lucky enough to be plying their trade alongside new signing James Horwill – a veteran of 61 Tests and former Australia captain.
England starlet Jack Clifford is also relishing the guidance of Nick Easter and Chris Robshaw in the back row, while Tim Visser and Jamie Roberts are providing further international experience in the backs.
And with Harlequins sitting third in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table and having secured a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup ahead of this weekend’s clash with Montpellier, Merrick is adamant the blend is paying dividends.
“With someone like James Horwill coming in, there is so much I can learn off him, and playing with him regularly as well as the competition we’ve got in the second row is doing a lot for my rugby,” he said.
“It’s good for England that we’ve got three young locks at the club, all learning off someone who has played more than 50 times for Australia, so it’s a good place to be at the moment.
“We can learn off guys like Nick Easter – who is 37 and still at the top of his game – and Chris Robshaw too, and from the front row lot like Adam Jones.
“Then the backs have got that mix too with Tim Visser and Charlie Walker, so there’s a good contrast between old and newer players here who can all do a job.
“I would say Harlequins is probably the best club to be at in the Aviva Premiership in terms of that contrast, and I am still learning all the time.
“Every time you get to start, especially at home it’s a special occasion, so that’s what I am trying to do as much as I can – whether that be in the Aviva Premiership, in Europe, or even an A League game.
“I want to build my reputation and show off what kind of player I am. It’s going well so far, I’m really pleased they have offered me a new contract and I just need to get a few more starts and go on from there.”
Conor O’Shea’s side visit Montpellier with the pressure off having already qualified for the Challenge Cup knockout stages, but will be keen to keep their perfect record in the competition going.
Quins fought off a second-half comeback last week against Cardiff Blues, and after having to do the same at home to Worcester Warriors a couple of weeks beforehand, Merrick admits their second-half form is a cause for concern.
He said: “We got off to a good start of course against Cardiff and came flying out of the blocks, but lost a bit of our composure after half time and let them back into the game.
“When we played against Saracens we obviously played well in both halves, but this kind of performance has happened before against Worcester so it is something we need to be careful of.
“We could have missed out on a home quarter-final or put a lot of pressure on ourselves for the Montpellier game, and those four or five points make all the difference in the Aviva Premiership.
“We have a bit of a changed team this weekend but at the same time it’s a great opportunity for me and some of the others to make an impression and show the coaches what we’re about.
“They need to win to qualify, so they will be well up for it.”