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Harlequins preview 2012/13

Defending champions Harlequins face a fight to retain their Aviva Premiership crown.

O'Shea's men target title defence

Under the guidance of Conor O'Shea, Harlequins have finally gone on to clinch the silverware to go with being one of rugby union's most famous brands. Having secured the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2011, O'Shea went on to lead the club to a maiden Aviva Premiership title last season. Now the big challenge is to follow this up with more honours - and O'Shea has opted with continuity rather than splashing the cash. Dave Ward and Ben Botica are the only new faces to the Quins squad, with Chris York, Tomas Vallejos, Richard Bolt and Benjamin Urdapilleta opting for pastures new. That means captain marvel Chris Robshaw will once again shoulder the responsibility of leading the talented and exciting squad from the front. Nick Easter, Ugo Monye, Will Skinner, George Robson, Mike Brown and Danny Care will all play key roles, with Nick Evans again pulling the strings and providing the lion's share of points. Crucially, though, the next generation of stars have already gained wealth of experience - with Joe Marler, George Lowe, Ross Chisholm, Charlie Matthews and Sam Smith having made the step up. And rising stars Charlie Walker, Kyle Sinckler, Darryl Marfo and Jack Clifford will be among those looking to follow suit over the coming months

Harlequins stats

Director of rugby: Conor O'Shea
Captain: Chris Robshaw
Sky Bet odds: 4/1
Last season: Champions
In: Dave Ward (Cornish Pirates), Ben Botica (Perigueux)
Out: Chris York (Newcastle), Tomas Vallejos (Scarlets), Richard Bolt (London Scottish), Benjamin Urdapilleta (Oyonnax), Ollie Smith (Esher), Matt Cairns (retired)
Key man - Nick Evans: The New Zealander is a class act and it is one of the greatest mysteries why he remains an international outcast. Evans kept the scoreboard ticking over last season, with his haul of 266 points over half of the club's tally in the league.
Prediction: 2nd

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