NICK EVANS has hailed the sheer professionalism that has taken Harlequins to the summit of English rugby just three years after the scandal of Bloodgate.
The club reached the darkest hour with that well documented attempt to cheat their way through a Heineken Cup game with the fake injury to Tom Williams.
But fly-half Evans, who kicked 20 points at Twickenham in Saturday's 30-23 victory over Leicester in the Aviva Premiership final, says the club used the shame to create a winning side.
“As far as we're concerned, that episode's gone now, although we know the tattoo will always be there,” said the New Zealander.
“It was a tough time and the club basically imploded, but no-one jumped ship and the core of the group stayed the same and that was the most important thing.
“Maybe the biggest difference is that there's been an increase in professionalism. [Former director of rugby] Dean Richards laid the foundations with the new young guys and Conor O'Shea has carried that on – making us take on greater responsibility as players.
“The young guys have to learn to be leaders pretty quickly, but Conor's man management has been brilliant this year and we've now got a group of young guys with unbelievable ambition and talent.”
Evans, who at 31 has brought vital experience to a side built on youth, says that greater professionalism is bound to be tested even further next year, with rivals gunning for their scalp.
“We are going to go into a different phase next year as champions,” he said. “No longer will we be the underdogs, a team that might pick up an away win here and there. We're going to be expected to win games on a regular basis, and that will mean a different mental approach for us.
“It will be quite a learning curve. But as long as the core of the group stays together as it has for the last four years, we should be successful.
“Rugby can go up and down but we have to get ourselves back into semi-finals to give ourselves a chance and we'll see what happens.”