Harlequins are already targeting an Anglo-Welsh Cup final appearance on home turf, and with a tricky trip to south Wales next up, Joe Gray hopes some inside information could give them the upper hand.
The Londoners travel to Ospreys on Friday evening as the Welsh regions enter this year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup reckoning – and for veteran prop Adam Jones, the game marks a return to his former stomping ground.
Hooker Gray will line up in the front-row alongside Jones at St Helen’s, having also started Quins’ first foray in this season’s competition when they beat Exeter Chiefs 29-15.
And he admits the 35-year-old has been giving his current team-mates the inside scoop on the club where he spent 11 years and made almost 200 appearances.
“Adam Jones has been telling us all about it, and how they will come out firing and want to get stuck into us being English,” he said.
“He says they will fancy it in the rain, and will be very physical with the set-piece being key. But they have an expansive game as well and like to throw it about, so he’s warned us we need to be aware in all aspects of what could come at us.
— Adam Jones (@adamjones3) November 10, 2016
“You’ve got to work hard going away from home, but Adam in particular is really excited about going back and playing against his old team at tighthead.
“I feel it whenever I go back to Northampton Saints – there’s always a bit more in the tank against your old mates and coaches as you want to prove your point.
“But he’s really been giving us the message that we need to front up as we can’t go to Ospreys half-hearted. We’ll be really looking to bring the game to them.”
The boot of Nick Evans was vital in Quins opening Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Exeter, as he landed five kicks from the tee and notched up 14 of his team’s points at the Stoop.
But Gray insists the pack also pulled their weight last time out, and is excited for a different challenge this week in what are predicted to be torrid conditions in Wales.
“We were really happy with the win last week as it was a superb display up front,” he said.
“This competition has obviously taken on a bit of extra meaning for us now, and the captain Dave Ward was saying how important the competition is for us with the final being at the Stoop.
“We want to put in the performances to get there so we were really switched on and determined last weekend and we are the same this weekend as well looking ahead to a trip to Wales.
“The good thing about these competitions is that you get to test yourself against people you don’t usually play, and experience different environments.
“Definitely whenever you go to Wales the crowd are always hostile and it’s a brilliant environment to play in – it’s loud and in your face if you make a mistake.
“That’s what you expect and it’s a brilliant part of this competition, just like going to France or Ireland in Europe. It’s exciting.”
The second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend. For full details of the tournament and tickets for the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March see www.new-heroes.com