Earle: Gloucester clash “massive” for Quins’ top four hopes
Nathan Earle believes victory against Gloucester Rugby will give Harlequins crucial breathing space over their rivals in the race to finish in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby top four.
The electrifying winger scored a last-gasp try in the final play of the game against Bath Rugby at the Rec last weekend to extend Quins’ winning run in the league to five games.
Earle went over as the clocked ticked into the red as the visitors fought back to triumph 31-29 and strengthen their hold on third place ahead of the visit of fourth-placed Gloucester to The Stoop on Sunday.
And with the Cherry and Whites now seven points behind Quins, Earle acknowledges that a sixth successive league win would see Paul Gustard’s side put one foot in the semi-finals.
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“It’s a massive game for us, coming off a scrappy win over Bath and especially with it being third against fourth, as if we win it we get a bit more breathing room,” he said.
“Another victory makes things a little bit more certain for us and puts our fate more in our own hands as we approach the end of the season, so we’re massively excited for the game.
“Gloucester have a very strong team with Danny Cipriani playing some of the best rugby we’ve seen him play and the pack at Gloucester is brilliant so we’re excited for the challenge.
“We were really happy with the result against Bath. We played well in patches during the game, but we’re still waiting on that full 80-minute performance.
“We’re just really excited to challenge ourselves to put in that full 80-minute or even a full 85-minute performance as you should never switch off.”
Gloucester lost to West Country rivals Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate last time out, which allowed Quins to extend their advantage over Johan Ackermann’s men with seven rounds to play.
But rather than tempering his side’s expectations with plenty of rugby still to play, Earle is confident Quins have the ability not just to finish in the top four – but to win the whole thing.
“We can’t wait to get stuck in,” said Earle. “We said at the start of the season we believe we have a squad to win Gallagher Premiership Rugby and we all wholeheartedly believe that.
🗣 "It was a massive away win, and started the belief that the squad's got in itself. We've come a long way since then, and we've gone from strength-to-strength."
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) March 7, 2019
“We would be lying if we said our eye wasn’t on that and finishing in the top four, but at the end of the day each week is just as important as the next.
“We’re now in a critical period of the league so we’re taking it week-by-week and we’re focusing on what’s happening that week and who we’ve got.”
Earle has been one of the most lethal finishers in the Gallagher Premiership this season with eight tries, but the 24-year-old has not let his mind wander to possible international honours.
“I’m just trying to play my best rugby and the fact that the team is playing well helps my case especially being on the wing,” said Earle, who is still awaiting his first senior cap.
“I’m just focusing on what we’re doing at Harlequins and what I can do for the boys. If that garners England recognition then so be it, but for now my mind is focused on Quins.”
Earle was speaking at the launch of the new partnership between Gallagher and Project Rugby, a flagship participation initiative run by Premiership Rugby in collaboration with England Rugby.
The programme is designed to engage and develop new audiences through rugby and stimulate a lifelong interest in the game, reaching 20,000 young people since its launch in 2017.