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Match preview: Harlequins v London Irish

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea wants his former club London Irish to stay in the Aviva Premiership Rugby but only after his side has knocked them out of the European Challenge Cup this weekend.

Harlequins take on London Irish at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday in the quarter-final of the European competition and then again at the Madejski Stadium in Round 21.

O’Shea spent nearly a decade as a player, director of rugby and managing director at London Irish and said it’s still a club that means a lot to him.

“It’s a club that’s massively close to my heart, I gave almost ten years of my life to it,” he said.

“I love the place and I want to see them stay up but I also want to see them go out this weekend and then we have them at the Madejski and I want to win that as well but I really hope they survive.”

London Irish sit bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby, with a crucial clash against Newcastle next weekend, and were soundly beaten 38-7 at the Twickenham Stoop in December.

But O’Shea knows that without the weight of a relegation campaign on their shoulders, Irish will be extremely difficult opponents come Saturday.

“I see an animal coming that can relax and the pressure is almost completely off,” he said.

“Everyone is talking about the Newcastle game and nobody is talking about this game for them so we have to be incredibly professional.

“Silverware of any ilk is hard to come by; we are 240 minutes away and this is the first 80 minutes of that and it’s do or die.

“There’s no resting, anyone who is fit is going to be on this pitch. We will go as full strength as we can and we’ll try and win this thing.

“We are never shy in saying we want to win, that’s the expectation of this club, so we want to go out and start the 240 minute climb by winning the first 80.”

Looking to halt that climb is London Irish and skipper Luke Narraway wants his side to play with freedom on a week away from their Aviva Premiership Rugby survival fight.

“It’s been well documented with the league and where we are at the moment,” he said.

“Not a lot of people think we are going to do much in this game. It’s the perfect opportunity to come here with the pressure off and to really hone our skills and play a good Harlequins side but one that we think we can cause problems.

“The pressure is not on us, everything is on Harlequins. Everyone thinks they are going to win this game with ease.

“It’s probably a nice position for us to be in where there’s no pressure we can come, we can play rugby we can attempt things and have a really good crack at it.

“For us there’s not too much pressure it’s a chance to play some rugby without that dark cloud hanging over us.”

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