This Friday evening sees us face Saracens at the Stoop (Kick-off 7.45pm) in what is our final warm up game for the Zurich Premiership season which starts next weekend.
With all the media hype surrounding the announcement of the Rugby World Cup Squads there has been little media attention on the Zurich Premiership as yet, although I am sure that this will change over the next seven days.
We have selected a strong squad for the Saracens game with the likes of Mike Worsley, Ben Willis, Josh Taumalolo, George Harder and Gavin Duffy all making their first team debuts at the Stoop. There were a few players unavailable this weekend, Karl Rudzki, Laurent Gomez, Chris Bell, Tani Fuga and Mel Deane; but with the exception of Karl and Chris everyone is expected to be fit and available for selection within the next week to ten days.
It has been a busy week on and off the practice field. On Tuesday afternoon the entire squad travelled up to N1 to visit the Head Offices of our main sponsors CSF. It was very enjoyable and we got the opportunity to meet the staff who have supported NEC Harlequins over the last two seasons. It is tremendous news that CSF, along with NEC, have signed up for a further two years.
On Wednesday afternoon we had our pre-season press conference introducing some of the new signings to the press for the first time. It was interesting to see that while various photo shoots were taking place Paul Burke was in the background going through his usual kicking routines which lasted for approximately ninety minutes. It is no wonder he kicks over 85% of his goals.
The other great news is season ticket sales, which are now at over 3850, well in excess of last season's total.
As ever there are great expectations for the new season at every club in the Premiership and here at NEC Harlequins it is no different. Over the last three seasons we have improved in terms of our league performance from 11th to 9th up to 7th last season. Clearly a primary goal is to continue this improvement and for us to look to finish in the top half of the table for the first time in a number of years. This will not be easy as there will be eleven other clubs looking to achieve the same.
The whole squad are looking forward to Friday's game against Saracens and to our opening Zurich Premiership match against London Wasps. See you all at the Stoop.
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.