- Harlequins will face Sale Sharks in the LV= Cup Final on Sunday
- Captain Luke Wallace has confidence in his side's ability
Photo: Getty Images
Harlequins captain Luke Wallace is confident that his side can overturn Sale Sharks on Sunday in the LV= Cup Final but says they will need to draw on all their experience so far in the competition to do so.
With a number of first-team players called up for England duty, such as Chris Robshaw, Joe Marler, Danny Care and Mike Brown, Quins have relied on the depth of their squad to get to this year’s final, fielding a number of up-and-coming youngsters.
In the team’s 31-23 quarter-final win against Bath Rugby, 16 of the 23 in the matchday squad were under the age of 23. Wallace, who is filling in as captain while Robshaw is away, is just 22 years old. Despite their youth though, Quins are yet to lose in the competition, taking five wins from five. The last team to do that was Northampton in 2010.
It was against the Saints last November that Quins faced their first real challenge, having to rely on a late try from fly half Ben Botica to seal the win 31-30. Wallace says that match really pushed them but showed how resilient the young side are.
“Northampton was a massive start for us,” he said. “At home they are always going to be a hard team to beat and they were on top in terms of forwards for quite a lot of the match. But we pulled together and went back to basics in the last five minutes and got that try. It really showed the mental strength we have in the squad and we carried that through.”
“Both Bath games have been pretty tough, in the first game we made 250 tackles, which is double what we would usually expect to do. We have come through a lot together and now pitches are a bit harder we have definitely got a good chance in the final.”
Quins are currently second in the Aviva Premiership and have reached the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup as well as being in Sunday’s final. With key figures absent, Wallace says the players had to step up and carry the mantle while the likes of Robshaw were missing, and believes it has helped foster a strong group of young players.
Photo: Getty Images
“When they went away we had the massive thing of trying to keep momentum from when they were here. There was the challenge of trying to fill in as when they left we were top of the Premiership, but we have kept that momentum and had some big victories.
“We are expecting that if we play to our full potential, we can beat anyone on our day. Looking at the beginning of the tournament we just took it a game at a time.”
Head coach John Kingston has helped bring through the current crop of young Quins players and is impressed with how they have performed throughout the competition.
“They have taken advantage of the opportunities there for them. Most of them have been involved with the first team at some point this year and getting opportunities at various times. It’s nice to see them putting their hands up. They are certainly enjoying themselves and I’m really pleased for them that they have had the opportunity to go as far as they have in the competition.”
Quins' opponents Sale have had a tough time in the Aviva Premiership this year, winning just four of 17 games and currently are one off the bottom. However, in the LV=Cup they have won four of five games, beating the likes of London Wasps and Saracens and Kingston is well aware of the threat they pose.
“The main focus is always about making sure we get our game on the pitch. We have to have an awareness of what’s in front of us though, know that they want to try and negate those things, know that they have considerable strengths. They played well against Saracens to win the game and will consider themselves favourites going into the match with the use of the players they have.
“We have huge regard for Sale, but we have to play what’s in front of us. They are a good side, far better than their league position would have you believe. They performed really well in this competition, and for us to get anywhere near them we will have to put our game on the pitch.”
The LV= Cup Final, 3pm, Sunday, March 17, Sixways Stadium, Worcester.
Tickets are on sale now from £20 each at Ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 844 0444. (Tickets on sale 24 hours a day.)