It is almost time for all the talking to stop and the action to start. At 2.45pm on Saturday afternoon NEC Harlequins kick off their new Zurich Premiership season at home to London Wasps, last seasons champions.
Over the last week there have been all sorts of predictions made by various 'experts'. Some say we are outside bets for a top four finish, while the majority seem to believe we will finish somewhere between seventh and eleventh. Presumably this is based upon Keith Wood and Dan Luger leaving the club, Jason Leonard and Will Greenwood being away on World Cup duty and the fact that we have not signed any 'star' players. Well between this weekend and the beginning of May we will see who is right and who is wrong!
After last weekend's win over Saracens, it has been another busy week at the training ground. Aside from the preparations for the London Wasps game, Tuesday morning saw Mark Evans and Andre Vos at the Zurich Premiership press launch, while on Wednesday evening a number of the squad including Tony Diprose, Ben Willis and Simon Miall attended a wine tasting evening with another of our sponsors-Severn Group.
Opening games of the season are notoriously close affairs, often with only one score in them, as the teams get used to Zurich Premiership action again. London Wasps, under the excellent coaching of Warren Gatland, will be extremely difficult opponents. In the forwards they will have internationals such as Craig Dowd, Phil Greening, Will Green, Simon Shaw and Paul Volley, while at scrum half they have one of the best exponents in the number nine shirt, Rob Howley. Simon Shaw must be the unluckiest man not to have been included in England's World Cup squad, and I am sure he will be out to prove a point to Clive Woodward this Saturday.
We will not be announcing our team for Saturday's game until after our final training session on Friday. There are a number of selections issues still to be settled which is a nice headache for Mark Evans and his coaching team.
It looks as though it will be a packed Stoop on Saturday afternoon with only a handful of tickets still remaining. With the game also being shown live on Sky this will be a tremendous opportunity for NEC Harlequins to show everyone in Rugby just how far we have come in the last three years, both on and off the pitch.
There will be a huge air of excitement around the Squad on Saturday when we meet up for our pre-match preparations. When the team run out onto the pitch to the sound of the 'Mighty Quins' on Saturday afternoon I expect the noise to be deafening. Everyone involved with NEC Harlequins is looking forward to the game; let us hope that we get off to a good start in our new Zurich Premiership campaign so that we can give our faithful supporters, new and old, something to cheer about.
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.