Conor O'Shea: Harlequins coach wary of Premiership competition

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea has warned his side they have little margin for error this season.

Quins lifted the Premiership title in 2012 but were beaten at the semi-final stage last term.

"I'm more excited than I have ever been going into a season but we know how competitive it is as well.

"We know where we want to be at the end of the season but if you take your eye off the ball you are in a lot of trouble," he told BBC London 94.9.

He added: "We just want to make sure we are the best team we can be.

"We don't think we were that last year if we are being honest with ourselves. We can be infinitely better but so can a lot of other teams."

In the last three seasons we have won three senior trophies. That hasn't happened by accident

Conor O'Shea Harlequins director of rugby

Quins begin their campaign against London Wasps at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.

Prop Paul Doran-Jones, lock Nick Kennedy and winger Paul Sackey are the only three players to move to the Twickenham Stoop over the summer but O'Shea is content with the shape of his squad.

"The young players we have are that year older and are desperate to play," the Irishman said.

"They are pushing and that is where our squad strength is coming from.

"All through the team we have competition and that is what you need. There will be 15 happy people that will start against Wasps but the others will have to play their part.

"I want them to be disappointed and I don't want them to accept they are number two. I want them to be craving their chance but when they get the chance they need to take it as that's how you get momentum.

"We believe in what we have got [in the squad] and I have huge faith in what we have got.

"It is nice to have a bit of freshness but with the dynamic of our group, I know I have players who can play at the very highest level and can compete and win in the Premiership.

"In most positions we have got that and then we have got some young guys behind who are champing at the bit to push into that group.

"That is the way it should be."

After winning three trophies in three seasons - the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2011, the Premiership title in 2012 and the LV= Cup this year - O'Shea hopes his side can fulfil their potential in the new campaign.

"We are judged on winning and we all want to win," he said.

Aviva Premiership 2013-14: Opening weekend fixtures

Toby Flood

Friday, 6 September:

Newcastle v Bath (19:45 BST)

Saturday, 7 September:

London Irish v Saracens (14:00 BST)

Gloucester v Sale (15:00 BST)

Northampton v Exeter (15:00 BST)

Wasps v Harlequins (16:30 BST)

Sunday, 8 September:

Leicester v Worcester (14:00 BST)

"That is the nature of it but it is not what we focus on. We focus on our processes and being the best team we can be.

"If we are the best we can be then we will be a very difficult side to beat.

"In the last three seasons we have won three senior trophies. That hasn't happened by accident.

"Our last emotion from last season was our disappointment at losing the semi-final at Welford Road [to Leicester Tigers].

"It is much nicer having your last emotion being winning a trophy.

"There is an individual collective drive and hurt. But everyone is driven by something."

O'Shea says their Premiership semi-final defeat by Leicester in May, which they lost 33-16, has shown him that his side must be ruthless and seize the initiative when they are on top in games.

"We were outstanding for 39 minutes, could have had a decent lead at half time and the momentum and the game would have been different," he said.

"They scored on half time and the whole momentum shifted. The problem we had mentally then was we didn't get that momentum back.

"That is one of the things we've been looking at; momentum shifts in games and seasons.

"You have to understand when to drive home that momentum but you also have to understand when you are down that you are going to be.

"Premiership sides are too good not to have momentum and you have to ride that, just as you have to make sure you focus and are on top of things when you are on top.

"Any team, on any day, can beat anyone. Momentum in a season is key and we'd like to get a good start."