Joe Gray believes the Stoop will serve up a thriller in Europe on Saturday night – but is backing Harlequins to get the better of Wasps after rediscovering their try-scoring touch.
Their bonus-point victory over an improving Leicester Tigers last weekend put them within touching distance of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four following a topsy-turvy start.
In seasons gone by, Quins have never been far away from the top of the try-scoring charts but have only scored 27 through 13 rounds so far – doubly surprising given the arrival of wingers Marland Yarde and Asaeli Tikoirotuma over the summer.
However, 11 of those scores have come in the last three games and with Wasps continuing to pile the points on the board, there could be a quite a show in store for Europe.
Their European Rugby Champions Cup Pool could hardly be tighter – Leinster and Quins are joint top while Wasps trail just one point behind – and defeat on the weekend could well be a fatal blow for either side.
However, Gray believes his side can channel their recent form into furthering their European adventure over the next two weeks.
“We’ve been speaking about it as a team and been putting it into practice in training in the last few weeks,” said the hooker.
“We know teams are trying to stop us from quick ball, quick taps, and getting the ball out quickly at line-outs.
“But the Big Game (against Northampton) brought us lots of confidence knowing we were getting back into the swing of things.
“Against Bath, Leicester had put on a strong display the week before so we wanted to try and get that Quins style of play going, and get the bonus point.
“A lot of teams would have kicked the ball out at that point but Mike Brown passed to Tim Swiel, and we get the bonus-point try. That shows our intent and it was a great win and great performance.
“They’ve always been pretty close games against Wasps, in the double header last season we put on 40 points
each so there’s always been a lot of excitement to it.
“They’ve got a dangerous back-three and their back-row is pretty tasty, then you’ve got Joe Simpson and Andy Goode pulling the strings.
“But we’re full of confidence in Europe, the away game in Leinster was tough to take but we’ve been reaching the required levels consistently and now need to do it again.”
Taming the Tigers has not been the only fillip for Quins heading into this weekend after the news that academy product Luke Wallace has signed up to a new long-term deal.
The flanker, 24, has accrued 58 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances already – and Gray admits the back-row is not the only position where Quins are stocked full of talent.
“It’s great news for the club and our strength and depth is awesome, it shows how the youngsters here are all climbing the ladder and get the rewards for all their hard work,” added Gray.
“It’s another step in the right direction for us and Luke’s only 24, so he’s got his whole career ahead of him.
“We’re all pushing for places and even at hooker, there’s me, (Dave) Ward and Rob Buchanan who have all been involved in some capacity with England over the last year.
“Then there’s guys like Asaeli Tikoirotuma who is on the bench one week, and we’ve got Tom Williams back on the wing too. It’s a great position for the team to be in.”
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