The curtains may come down on the Conor O’Shea era at the end of the season, but Harlequins prop Mark Lambert insists the show will very much go on.
Over a six-year period, O’Shea has brought three trophies to Harlequins – including the Aviva Premiership Rugby trophy in 2012 – and could well add to that tally by the time he leaves.
The Londoners were the first team to beat table-toppers Saracens this season, and will play London Irish in the European Rugby Challenge cup quarter-finals after finishing as top seed in the pool stages.
The next step in O’Shea’s swansong year is to down a Newcastle Falcons side that picked up their first win this season in Aviva Premiership Rugby last time out by beating Bath Rugby.
But however O’Shea signs off at Harlequins come the summer, Lambert believes his legacy will greatly benefit the next man in charge.
“We found out the day before everyone else, he’s been fantastic for the club and no one else can say anything but that,” he said. “He feels it is time for him to move on and we’ve got to respect that, and I’m sure whatever Conor does next he will be a success at.
“I imagine it’s going to be a very interesting time, it’s pretty rare for someone to leave a club in such a good position – I’m sure there will be a few guys who will throw their hat into the ring.
“We’ve got a huge amount of experience in the coaching staff, fantastic players and with some great facilities.”
Though Harlequins did not make the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals last year, much of that was down to a cruel run of injuries that nearly decimated their entire front row.
Lambert had to spell at tighthead at one stage after Kyle Sinckler and Will Collier both went down with injuries – both of whom are now competing with British & Irish Lion Adam Jones for a starting spot.
And while fellow loosehead Joe Marler may be unavailable due to the Six Nations over the next two months, Lambert admits the situation is a world apart from a year ago.
“We were definitely down to the bare bones last season – we had an almost comical degree of injuries,” he added. “There were a couple of times where we didn’t have two fully fit props and we played as tough as we could through it.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation, but guys have come back and we’ve got that little bit more depth. Adam Jones has just been great, Will (Collier) has been outstanding of late and Kyle (Sinckler) has done well too.
“This year, I played a fair bit at the start of the season when some of the boys were at the World Cup and I had and a bit of an injury around Christmas-time.
“It’s slightly different for those of us who have been around a while, as usually you’d have two LV= Cup games around this time, and you’ve got a lot of guys who won’t just be away for the seniors but also the Under-20s as well. But hopefully we can come out on top.”