Mike Ruddock insists his pre-Harlequins team-talk will not include a quick word in Chris Horsman’s ear regarding the recalcitrant prop’s on-field discipline.
The Worcester director of rugby insists his ex-Wales international is a reformed sinner and there is no danger of any ‘afters’ following Horsman’s last encounter with Dean Richards’ men.
Ruddock takes the formerly combustible tighthead and his Warriors to Twickenham Stoop tomorrow for a game that marks the half-way point.
He does so on the back of consecutive draws with lowly Bristol and Newcastle and looking for what would be only their second win in nine against Quins.
And although Horsman will start from the bench, the veteran prop is certain to come on at some stage and renew hostilities with a front row that played no small part in his most recent brush with authority.
The 31-year-old picked up a four-week ban and £2,000 club fine when he stamped on Mike Ross in the corresponding fixture at Sixways in October, since when he has started just two games for Worcester as Tevita Taumoepeau continues to hog the No 3 shirt.
Ruddock made no secret of his dissatisfaction with Horsman after that but is now confident he has mended his ways and – more importantly – won’t fall for the same shenanigans that so frustrated him last time.
“I expect he will come on and I expect he will do well,” Ruddock said. “He did really well up at Newcastle and he has learned the lessons from that game.
“He is a far more disciplined player now – the stats and the video evidence are showing that. I am not going to condone the fact Chris got involved in that scuffle, however, when we went through the video and looked through it afterwards it was obvious Quins weren’t binding in the scrum and were trying to antagonise Chris.
“He fell for that ploy and paid the price. He has learned from that and I don’t expect him to fall for the same thing again. If they are not binding properly or not scrummaging straight as happened on that occasion he will do the right thing – just keep his composure and make sure he asks to our captain to speak to the referee to look out for those things.”
Harlequins are far from invulnerable in the scrum. If Horsman can have the same sort of devastating effect he had when Worcester last won a Premiership match in south west London – when he turned Mike Worsley inside out in February 2005 – the visitors could be onto a winner.
They had their problems at London Wasps last weekend too when Sean Davey, admittedly somewhat prematurely, awarded a penalty try against them as Phil Vickery tucked into a sizeable helping of Aston Croall.
Significantly they solved those problems too.
“Ceri Jones came on in the second half and their scrum improved big time to the point where they had a penalty try given to them,” Ruddock said.
“It will be a battle up front. Our scrum is progressing nicely – a lot of it will come down to their selection. There are certain players they have in the front row who seem to be a little bit more experienced than others.
“But we will look to try and attack them in the scrum and pressurise their lineout. Those things will have a major impact on their eight, nine and ten.
“The more pressure we can put on that scrum and lineout the worse quality possession we will give them and the less chance players like Danny Care, Nick Evans if he plays, Chris Malone and Nick Easter will have to control the game.”
Ruddock cites the victory posted at the Stoop in the EDF Energy Cup in November 2007 as cause for optimism, though at that stage he was not managing a swingeing injury situation that has cut a swath through their back line.
The rest of Sam Tuitupou’s season will begin tomorrow, on the sidelines recovering from a knee operation, while the absence of Loki Crichton and Matthew Jones gives Eoghan Hickey one last league game to win before he turns his attention to the European Challenge Cup and then the route back to London Irish.
The rest of Dale Rasmussen’s career could start tomorrow too. The Samoan has been drafted into inside centre to replace Tuitupou with Hal Luscombe likely to get his first Warriors start against the team he left in the summer at outside centre.