This Friday evening we play our last Zurich Premiership home game of the season when we take on Northampton Saints at the Stoop, kick-off 7.45pm.
The match is hugely important to both teams. Northampton are still competing with both Leicester Tigers and Leeds Tykes to finish fourth in the league and guarantee themselves a place in next seasons Heineken Cup, while we need one more win to ensure that we will finish seventh in the table.
This would mean that we would qualify for the Wild Card play-offs, which we would also do if we finished eighth, where we would have the chance to win a place in the Heineken Cup.
Northampton are a good team, reaching the Powergen Cup Final, which they lost to Gloucester, and the quarterfinals of the Heineken Cup, where they lost away to finalists Toulouse. Their squad includes England players Matt Dawson, Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson and Paul Grayson, as well as other fine players such as Bruce Reihana, Andrew Blowers, John Leslie and Mark Connors.
When we played Northampton at Franklins Gardens back in November, we were well and truly beaten and we will need to put in a much improved performance if we are to achieve a win this Friday.
The team to face Northampton will be without Ace Tiatia and Billy Fulton. Having received three yellow cards this season, Ace is suspended for Friday's game but he will be available for our last Premiership fixture against London Wasps (10th May 2003), as well as the Wild Card plays-offs the following week.
Billy on the other hand suffered a dislocated wrist against Gloucester last Saturday and will not play again for NEC Harlequins before he returns to New Zealand to take up his contract with Wellington.
On the disciplinary front, later today (Thursday 1st May 2003) Dan Luger and I will be appearing before the RFU disciplinary committee to appeal against the yellow card he received in injury time against Leeds Tykes on 4th April 2003.
I am pleased to confirm that Jon Dawson, our young tight head prop, has recently signed a new two-year contract. Jon has known Mark Evans and myself for a number of years and he is one of the best young scrummaging tight heads in the country. We are delighted that he sees his future here at Quins.
We will have our final training session at the Stoop this morning in preparation for Friday night's game and the team are looking forward to playing once again in front of a full house.
Over recent weeks, the improvement in our performances has been based on a much improved defence. We did concede four tries at Kingsholm last week, but two of these were individual errors (missed tackles) and James Simpson-Daniel scored from 80 metres out following an interception pass.
There is much to play for on Friday evening and I look forward to seeing you at the Stoop.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.