Oscar Beard Exclusive: “The better we do as Quins will put me in the best place for England selection”

Beard is one of Harlequins - and England's - brightest talents

This Saturday, the final round of the regular season in the Galagher Premiership will be played with perhaps the tightest run-in the league has seen in years. 

Harlequins are among five other teams that could secure one of the two remaining play-off spots and they face familiar foes Bristol Bears, who themselves will be gunning for a top-four finish at The Stoop.

Among the Quins squad this season, 22-year-old centre Oscar Beard is hoping to get to Twickenham for a shot at a Premiership title. In his third year in the senior set-up, he’s now made over 50 appearances for the side and is eager for the challenge at the weekend.

“We’ve parked the Exeter game,” Beard tells TRU, reflecting on last Saturday’s 58-26 loss at Sandy Park in which Quins were blown away by their hosts in the second half.

“Obviously, we didn't want it to end that way, and it was a tough result, but we’ve put it behind us. The lads know the job that has to be done; secure five points against a good Bristol side at The Stoop. 

“Danny [Wilson] spoke to the group this week and said outright that this squad deserves a play-off spot, and I fully agree. We’ve been good all year, and everyone’s really excited to go out there and put it right and secure that spot at the weekend.

“We know Bristol are going to run from everywhere. They've changed their attacking philosophy a little from the start of the season, and it’s working for them. They've got the calibre of players, and they’re good at it so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of running rugby.

“They barely kicked against Saracens [last weekend] and only kicked three times against Newcastle, which tells you everything, really. We just need to go out there and impose our game plan on them. Our support, home and away, is unbelievable, and we want to go in with this ‘swing the bat’ mindset where we go out there and leave everything on the field.”

This season, the Premiership has been incredibly tight and one of the other teams fighting for the play-off spots are the aforementioned Exeter Chiefs. 

There has been a lot of discussion about Rob Baxter’s new young squad, but at Harlequins, it’s easy to forget, despite everything they have achieved, how youthful their side is as well.

“We’ve got a couple of the older heads like Danny [Care] and [Joe] Marler, but when you look at our back line and our wider squad, you’ve got so many lads under 25 like myself, Cadan Murley, Fin Baxter, Chandler Cunningham-South, and so many more. All of these lads have achieved so much like being in England squads and we know we can compete with anyone.

“I think that we've got a really good culture. There’s a really good balance with the older boys being a shoulder to lean on, and we all help each other. 

“We have a really good environment where everyone gets along really well, and I think that's massive. Everyone feels valued, but also, because a lot of us are so young, we’re also really good mates off the pitch. A lot of us have either come through the academy together or played age grade, and we’ve seen each other grow, and we all push one another to be better.”

Despite being in his third year professionally, Beard is quickly becoming one of the brightest young athletes in the country and was included in Steve Borthwick’s initial 36-man squad at the start of the Six Nations. 

“It was an amazing experience,” Beards says. “I’ve always wanted to play for England. I remember when I first spoke to Steve, it took me by surprise that he wanted me involved, but I was so excited. It was a dream come true. Just before the tournament, we played against Cardiff, and I felt I had one of my best games coming up against international centres, so that gave me confidence.

“When we went into camp, the step-up in intensity and attention to detail was massive. One of the biggest things I took was how much there was to get better, such as the emphasis on specific skills. I really valued observing how world-class centres like Henry Slade, who’s someone that I’ve looked up to massively, just watching how he operated and getting to share the field with him and pick his brains.

“The experience was so valuable. It made me realise just how close I am and that the gap isn’t that big. It was reassuring that I could do this and compete at this level.”

Beard didn’t get the chance to feature in the Six Nations but had the opportunity to put the Red Rose on his chest for England ‘A’ in their fixture against Portugal back in February.

At Matiolli Woods Welford Road, England romped to a 91-5 victory in which Beard scored one of their 15 tries.

“The England A game was amazing. I was playing with a lot of mates who I’ve come through the England age-grade pathway, like Charlie Atkinson, which was really cool. It was good to enjoy a ‘Test’ week experience and putting the shirt on and that environment made me hungry to do it even more.”

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After a brilliant season so far with Harlequins, Beard is still eager for more success. As a young player in a top Premiership side, his game is evolving massively, and he has big aspirations that are certainly attainable.

“The dream is to be on the plane to New Zealand with England in the summer,” Beard says. “We’ll see what happens from here. I need to grab every opportunity I can when I pull on a Quins shirt, keep improving my game, and see how things go. The better we do as Quins will put me in the best place to get selected.

“Personally, I don’t want to take a step back in my game. I want to keep moving forward and improving. I want to be the undeniable number one starting outside centre at Quins and I want to get capped for England. Those are my main two goals, and then within that, I love playing with Quins. The coaches are brilliant, and I think we’ve got something really special here.

“I think on our day, we can beat anyone. We showed that against Bordeaux [in the Champions Cup quarter-finals] and we were close against Toulouse. 

“We need to find some consistency of play, but I think we can win the Premiership and Europe in the next few years. 2021, when we won the Premiership, was my first year in the senior squad, and seeing what it meant to the squad was inspiring and gave me the drive to experience that as well.”

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