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Harlequins, the reigning Premiership champions, are driven by the belief that rival players think they “fluked” their way to the domestic title last season.
Ahead of Sunday’s showdown against local rivals Saracens, who have also won four of five matches to begin the new campaign, Nick Evans said that sentiment had “definitely” been relayed to him.
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“You just have to chat to some of the England guys who’ll go away to camp and come back,” explained Harlequins’ attack and backs coach.
“They say that is what is being said. It’s a funny one. We’ve got the trophy. It’s in the cabinet. I can go and look at it if I want to. I know what we did and what we achieved. Eleven other teams didn’t do it.
“People can say what they want. For us as a group, it’s one of those things in the background that can drive us and that we can use as motivation.
“As an organisation, we want to improve on what we are, to become a better team, better people and keep trying to push the boundaries.”
Harlequins have beaten Newcastle Falcons, Worcester Warriors, Bristol Bears and Bath so far in 2020-21, but Evans said that a 28-22 loss to Sale Sharks offered the sharpest insight into their reputation among other clubs.
“We are under no illusions that every game now is like a final for us,” he added. “Maybe teams say that we fluked it or maybe they think that we’re not worthy champions, but from what we’ve seen in the first few games, they’ve performed like we’re champions.
“We have to make sure that we’re on the money and very much prepared for every battle that we come up against. Against Sale, you saw from their reaction when they beat us up in Manchester how excited they were and how much they celebrated.
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“In itself, that gives us a bit of confidence that a team like that, that is really well coached, sees us in that light.”
As they renew pleasantries with in-form Saracens, Harlequins will be without a quartet of England call-ups in Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt, Joe Marler and Joe Marchant. Evans was confident that the fast-paced, ambitious approach that swept them to Premiership glory would endure.
“I’d be naïve to say we’ll just keep doing exactly the same thing with people that aren’t here,” he said. “Marcus, Dombrant, Marler and Marchant are a big part of our team.
“Guys that will come in offer different strengths and different character traits. We’ll make sure that we adapt to that but we’ll try to create situations to play to the DNA of who we are.
“That might be in the first minute or the 30th minute. It might take until the 79th or 80th minute.”