NEC Harlequins Head Coach Mark Evans suggested that his team will have to improve on their recent performances if they are to win the Parker Pen Challenge Cup Final showdown against Montferrand on Saturday (22nd May); kick-off 12.00pm at the Madejski Stadium, Reading.
Quins go into the game having suffered back-to-back defeats against Northampton Saints (18-17, Saturday 8th May) and Leicester Tigers (43-26, Saturday 15th May) in their last two outings.
"We haven't played as well we would have hoped to in recent weeks," said Evans at today's press conference. "Perhaps subconsciously our attention has been on the final, which may account for our performances of late. Certainly since we won the semi-final against Connacht (Sunday 25th April), the final has been at the back of our minds. We're going to have to pick-up our game this weekend though, otherwise we won't get the result we are looking for."
Quins will be looking forward to their return to the Madejski Stadium as it was the venue where they won the European Shield in 2001, defeating Narbonne 42-33 after extra-time in a pulsating final. However, Evans believes Montferrand will pose a bigger threat to Quins then their French counterparts did three years ago.
"They have a terrific squad and as a Head Coach I would certainly love to have their wage bill, but not as a Chief Executive! I think they are a more rounded squad than Narbonne, who were very much a forward orientated side."
"But I think we are a better side than 2001. We've been together longer and have had an okay season, finishing sixth in the table. For a long time we were challenging for the top three but a shaky spell in the spring put paid to that."
"It's a final and it will come down to which team has the best composure on the day, starts well and gets tempo into their game the quickest. I think playing the game in England will give us an advantage."
"You can lie awake at night and worry about what they can do, but I think it's more important to concentrate on what we're doing," concluded Evans, who would naturally be pleased with a similar outcome this weekend to that of the European Shield Final in 2001.
"It was a great game three years ago that ebbed and flowed throughout. If it is as good a game as that with the same result, then I'll be happy."
Evans confirmed that apart from Roy Winters (shoulder) and Ace Tiatia (ankle), he had no new injury worries to contend with following Saturday's Zurich Wildcard semi-final defeat at Leicester. Quins will announce their team for the final on Wednesday.
*NB - Tickets for the Parker Pen Challenge Cup Final are available from the Quins Ticketline on 0871 871 8877(up until 4.00pm on Tuesday 18th May) or from the Madejski Stadium ticket hotline on 0118 968 1000.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.