After complimenting the attacking qualities of their upcoming opposition, Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea and his London Irish equivalent Brian Smith vowed to put on a spectacle for Aviva Premiership rugby in front of 80,000 fans at Twickenham.
‘Big Game 5’, a designated Quins home game to be played at the national stadium, could be one of the most keenly contested yet given the rivalry that exists between the sides and the contrasting fortunes of their campaigns so far.
Both O’Shea and Smith say their players will need little motivation for this clash, which is expected to be played in front of a full house.
And the rival duo admit it is an occasion they are determined to use as a showcase for the quality of rugby played in the Aviva Premiership.
“It is incredibly exciting for any club match to have over 80,000 people and playing at Twickenham,” said O’Shea. “It is an amazing atmosphere.
“You get really good supporters and they get a great day out, a family day out, and hopefully the competition on the pitch is pretty huge as well.
“I think players raise the level of intensity that they will play at naturally because of the adrenaline of playing in front of a full house at Twickenham – how many times do you get the chance to do that in your career?
“They are very, very tightly contested matches between ourselves and the Irish and hopefully we come out the right side because it is our home game and we have to make sure we go out and nail our home matches.
“I know the Irish guys so well and how many good players they have. They can play the game any which way they want.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the players are probably looking forward to it more because of the occasion that it is.”
Smith believes facing the reigning Aviva Premiership champions, and current leaders, represents an opportunity for the Exiles to see first-hand how a club whose achievements he aims to one day emulate go about their business on the grandest of stages.
“We are a team that is trying to build,” he said of his second-bottom outfit. “A lot of people ask us ‘would you like to be like Leicester Tigers or Saracens’, and we say ‘no – we want to emulate the feats of those down the road’.
“They have built a very successful club off the back of English talent and we are in the formative stages of rebuilding our side, and it is great to come up against a team that believes you can win playing rugby as opposed to playing kick-chase.
“I think it will be a good spectacle. We are delighted to be part of Big Game 5 and we have a massive amount of respect for Quins and their players and what they have managed to achieve.
“They are a guiding light for everyone else in the league and how we want to play.”
Big Game 5 takes place at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, December 29th, with a 2.15pm kick-off. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk with tickets from £10.
Referee: Greg Garner (41st Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick, Roy Maybank. TMO: Geoffrey Warren.