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Harlequins relishing ‘massive underdog’ status in Europe, says Care

Care does not think “anyone will expect an awful lot from Harlequins this year” as they take their place in a group alongside last season’s finalists Racing 92 and perennial powerhouses Munster. 

“We have drawn two massive giants of European rugby,” said the scrum-half. “They are the games you want to play in. We want to play Munster and Racing, testing ourselves against the best. We are going in as massive underdogs, but you never know what could happen. We will enjoy the day and experience.

“We’re just excited to be playing one of Europe’s giants, excited to go to Thomond Park. I know it won’t be the same without fans there but we can’t wait to get over there and fly into the Champions Cup.”

Care has fond memories of Thomond Park. In 2011, he scored a try in the club’s famous 20-12 win over Munster in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, which Quins went on to win. Joe Marler and Mike Brown also remain from Quins’ starting XV that day. 

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Quins face an opening trip to Munster’s Thomond Park on Sunday

/ Getty Images )

“All I can draw back on for memories is 2011, it is a long time ago and is a real special day for the club,” Care said. “Hopefully we can emulate that again this week.”

Marler returns to start in a Quins side that is still without Andre Esterhuizen, who is suspended for four weeks, Simon Kerrod, who is banned for one, as well as Joe Marchant, who is resting after England duty. Captain Stephan Lewies is one of 13 injured players. 

Quins have pulled off impressive wins on the road at Northampton and Gloucester in the last fortnight. 

“Apparently we have won five away on the bounce now,” said Care. “I can’t remember the three previous, to be honest. The confidence is up, obviously winning on the road with bonus points, we are happy with.

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Care was part of the Quins team that beat Munster in the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 2011

/ Getty Images )

“We know this week is going to be an awful lot harder and we have got to play an awful lot harder to have a chance of winning the game.

“I think we know the things we have to get right when you go away to play Munster – the set-piece and their kicking game, with Conor Murray one of the best in the business at putting the ball on the money. We will have to defend incredibly well and take our chances because we’re not going to get many down there.”

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Quins have been getting the inside track on Munster from lineout coach Jerry Flannery

/ Getty Images for Harlequins )

Care said Quins had been getting the inside track on Munster from Jerry Flannery, the former Ireland hooker who joined the club this year as lineout coach.

“He’s been great,” said Care. “Given a steely edge to our forwards. It’s a work in progress, we are not where we want to be yet. Jerry with all that experience and all that knowledge, he’s Munster through and through. We also have a young lad Jack Stafford, who is a scrum half who has come over, he has been trying to give us the lowdown on a few of their players.”


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