Dai Young talks up Harlequins ahead of Champions Cup clash with Cardiff

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Cardiff rugby director Dai Young (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)
Cardiff rugby director Dai Young (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Archive)

Cardiff boss Dai Young has described Harlequins as “great for rugby” ahead of Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash.

Quins will arrive at the Arms Park knowing that a third successive pool stage victory would confirm a place in the round of 16 later this campaign.

They have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of European rugby’s blue riband club competition, but current form following on from last season’s Gallagher Premiership title triumph suggests they are serious contenders.

“I know from personal experience how good Quins are,” former Wasps rugby director Young said.

“They are a very hard team to stop. They have got too many quality players to try and highlight one or two.

“They’ve always shown the ability to beat the best at any time. I think where the frustration would have been from their end was that consistency of performance week in, week out.

Harlequins celebrate winning the Gallagher Premiership title last season (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)
Harlequins celebrate winning the Gallagher Premiership title last season (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)

“I don’t think anyone doubted that they had the quality within their squad to be pushing the best teams, and they showed on a regular basis that they were as good as anybody and they could beat anybody on the day.

“It was just the consistency that they would have to demonstrate to win the league, and that’s exactly what they did.

“They keep on playing, wear you down and get the result. They’ve done it the Quins way, playing on the front foot and trying to score tries, and I think it has been great for rugby. They are a pleasure to watch.”

Key to Quins’ success has been the sustained form of their England international fly-half Marcus Smith and Young added: “He is a real quality player.

“He sees things that people don’t see, and he is so sharp to react to opportunities.

England fly-half Marcus Smith is a key man for Harlequins (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)
England fly-half Marcus Smith is a key man for Harlequins (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

“But they have got talent everywhere. That eight-nine-10-12 axis is huge for them, and they have got so much gas out on the flanks.”

Welsh Government coronavirus restrictions – elite sport in the country has been behind closed doors since Boxing Day – mean no crowd for Quins’ visit.

Young said: “There would have been a fantastic atmosphere. You can’t hide the fact it is not great playing in empty stadiums.

“It is better than not playing at all, but only marginally, I think, to be honest. We haven’t had too many games when we’ve had crowds, so they can’t come quick enough.

You can't hide the fact it is not great playing in empty stadiums

Cardiff rugby director Dai Young

“We understand it is all about making sure people stay healthy and safe. We get that. But when it comes to playing a game, there is no substitute to playing in front of supporters.”

Cardiff, meanwhile, will be without Wales international back-row forward James Botham for the Quins encounter.

Botham, who is the grandson of England cricket great Sir Ian Botham, was carried off during last Saturday’s United Rugby Championship game against Edinburgh following a head-on-head collision with an opposition player.

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