x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

O'Shea looking to turn the page on 'Bloodgate' chapter

Harlequins, the senior partners in a flourishing relationship with their Abu Dhabi namesakes, can emerge stronger and more successful as they recover from the damaging "Bloodgate" scandal which engulfed the club last season.

ABU DHABI // Harlequins, the senior partners in a flourishing relationship with their Abu Dhabi namesakes, can emerge stronger and more successful as they recover from the damaging "Bloodgate" scandal which engulfed the club last season.

That is the view of Conor O'Shea, the former Ireland international full-back who has taken over at the helm of the club from Dean Richards, his disgraced predecessor as director of rugby.

"Bloodgate is over now," O'Shea said of the sordid affair stemmed from Tom Williams, a winger, faking a cut mouth in order to qualify for a blood-related substitution so a recognised goal kicker could get on to the field.

"Every club has their history, good chapters and bad. It is not something that will be with us for ever.

"There are a lot of people involved at the club who were not around when Bloodgate took place. We now want to create a new chapter in the long history of Harlequins and we want that chapter to be a good one and a very exciting one.

O'Shea, 39, who played for Ireland 35 times between 1993 and 2000, was speaking on a flying visit to the UAE to take part in a series of schools coaching sessions organised by Etihad Airways, the club's major sponsor.

The controversy which cost Richards his job and the club a fine of £215,000 (Dh1.24million) contributed to Quins' failure to qualify for the Heineken Cup which brings together the elite clubs from Europe each year.

"We are showing signs of recovering from that setback and we are all hoping to rectify that situation this season," O'Shea said.

"This club has assembled an unbelievable group of young players. I would just like to see that group grow together in their own little community. Keeping them all together is going to be difficult because other clubs are taking notice of the talent we've got. But if we can keep the core of that squad together they will develop as a team and learn from the experiences, whether they are good or bad. In three or five years time

"I expect us to be a real force at home and abroad. We know the idea is to win here and now, which is the nature of professional sport, but the aim is also to produce something sustainable for the future.

"The club is not just about the first team it is about everything that goes on in the community around it."

With that in mind, O'Shea was delighted to be invited to pass on some of his knowledge and experience to aspiring rugby players in the UAE, starting yesterday with the first of eight coaching sessions with different Abu Dhabi schools.

"Everybody in the game knows where they started from and it was a level like this one today," he said. "The great thing about rugby is the friends you make as you go around the world.

"We want to spread that gospel among local grass roots rugby players in the UAE. It's a great thing to be involved with on behalf of Harlequins.

"The world of rugby is growing by the day. The expat communities as well as the local people are always likely to provide someone who could play for you in the long term. But this week is not about that.

"This is something we are hoping to continue for years to come. This week is aimed at showing the kids here how great a game rugby is. It is nice to see things like this going on because it makes you feel good about rugby."