Harlequins aiming to be the top team in Europe

Matt Hopper insists that Harlequins have set themselves the ambitious target next season of being the best team in Europe – and that starts with a win against London Wasps at the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday.

Harlequins relinquished the Aviva Premiership Rugby crown to Leicester Tigers last season, and although winning the LV= Cup and the ‘A’ League, plus securing a quarter-final spot in the Heineken Cup – Hopper insists Conor O’Shea’s men were not satisfied.

Last season Harlequins fought back from a 27-point deficit against Dai Young’s London Wasps to win their London Double Header fixture 42-40 and Hopper is determined his side replicate that form and kick-off the new campaign with another maximum-pointer.

Hopper and Harlequins went on to win their first four Aviva Premiership Rugby games last season, before a wobble after Christmas saw O’Shea’s men fall away – a wrong the club is desperate to right this time around.

“Last year was slightly disappointing from a team point of view; obviously because we didn’t actually get to the stage that we wanted to but hopefully we can go one step further this year domestically and in Europe,” said Hopper.

“We set ourselves a target last year to be one of the best teams or the best team in Europe so until we achieve that we are always trying to grow and trying to push on.

“Last year we didn’t get to where we wanted to and the year before we did a little better but I think as a team we are getting better and the style of rugby we are playing is constantly evolving so if we can get it right on the day, we can have a successful season.

“We are always trying to build, we’ve got a lot of the same players, we’ve obviously lost a few and gained a few but we’re always trying to push forward and right the wrongs that we made last year. Hopefully we are in a better place but we’ll have to wait and see when the season starts.

“The league is very competitive and week-to-week there are a lot of new guys coming through and ever changing teams.

“But London Wasps play a certain way and we play a certain way. They showed us last year what they can do so we’ll just have to be on our best game.”

Competition will once again be fierce for a starting berth at Harlequins, with Jordan Turner-Hall, Ben Botica and George Lowe also all competing for a centre spot alongside Hopper.
But England Saxon Hopper is determined to play a pivotal role for Harlequins next season and help spearhead the club to further silverware.

“I just want to be contributing as much as I can and be a regular first team member and then from whatever happens from there is a bonus,” said Hopper. “I just want to play as many games as possible.

“It was a good season for me personally and I was fortunate to play quite a lot. I thought I had a good year but I was a bit disappointed with the end of our season as I had a little injury to deal with and so I struggled.

“We have 40 guys here all wanting to play and it’s a very competitive squad. They all want to play in that first team and in every position there’s a guy, the same as you or better than you but it’s the same every year.

“You’ve got to get your head down and concentrate on the things that you do well and hopefully at the end of the line the coaches will pick you but if not, you’ve just got to be part of the squad.

“We are constantly talking about the overall squad rather than the team so it’s important to be a participating member in all aspects.”

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