Following last weekends tremendous defensive effort by England in defeating New Zealand in there own back yard for only the second time, this Saturday sees them take on Australia in Melbourne, looking for their first ever win on Australian soil.
Much has been made of the style of England's win last Saturday, mainly because the game did not resemble the 'basketball' rugby that is seen in the Super 12's. Well to my way of thinking, it was about winning the game and good sides have the ability to change and adapt their styles to suit the occasion. To coin a well known phrase "no-one remembers the runners-up, but everyone remembers the winners!"
These games are merely a prelude to the World Cup that starts in Australia in October, but it was still a tremendous win by England and they will need an even bigger effort if they are to follow this with a win over the current world champions on Saturday.
On the home front, the England team were comfortably beaten by Australia last Friday evening 52-22 in the IRB Under 21 World Cup. The Australian team were technically superior at the tackle area and played the southern hemisphere referee far better than England.
On Tuesday of this week, England had a comfortable win over Japan with all four of the Quins representatives getting on the score-sheet. Both Chris Bell and Ugo Monye picked-up minor knocks, but hopefully they will both be available for selection for the game against France this Saturday.
Back here at Quins, I am delighted to confirm that our final signing for the new season is the former Leeds Tykes wing / centre George Harder. George, who is currently in New Zealand, will be joining us for pre-season training on 15th July. He is a hard running back who will be a tremendous addition to the squad.
With the budget and wage cap limits that we have to work with, our squad is now finalised for the 2003/04 season and we will now have to wait for the action to begin to see the fruits of our recruitment.
At the training ground, much preparation has been going on ahead of the players returning to training on 30th June. A final meeting is being held today as we put together the final pieces of the pre-season training programme, deciding on the content of the sessions up until we travel to France on 12th August.
Saturday 13th September seems a long way away at this stage, but it will soon be upon us and it is imperative that we are fully prepared for the start of the new season and our game against London Wasps at the Stoop.
Before then there is a lot of hard work to be done, with the new players arriving and having to be integrated into the squad. This all starts on 30th June.
In the meantime, let us all hope that England come away with another victory on Saturday, leaving them in fine sprits before they start their preparations for the World Cup in August.
I will speak to you again in a fortnight, as I have taken the liberty of taking a week's holiday next week!
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.