As I write this, we are traveling up the M1 towards Leeds in preparation for our return to Zurich Premiership action on Friday evening (4th April 2003). This afternoon we will train at Morley Rugby Club, and we will put our final preparations together on Friday morning at our hotel base in Leeds city centre.
Leeds Tykes are a much under rated team in the Premiership and a side that has taken some big scalps at their home ground. As I said last week, they are a very well organized team, as their record shows. No team has scored more than two tries against them at Headingley and no side has gained a bonus point against them for scoring four tries or more all season.
They have a world class goal kicker in Braam van Straaten and a very solid set-piece, especially their scrum that has caused difficulties to many teams this season.
In addition to this, they have a very exciting and well-balanced back three. Dan Scarborough, George Harder and Diego Albanese are all threats in attack and will give our defence plenty to think about.
From a NEC Harlequins point of view, we are delighted to have our England player's, Jason Leonard, Will Greenwood and Dan Luger back after their exploits in Dublin last Sunday. They have all been in fine form this week and it has been good to see their inter-action with the rest of the squad.
In terms of team news, there will be just one change to the squad that defeated London Irish three weeks ago. Jason Leonard will come into the squad of 22, replacing Pablo Cardinali. There may however be some changes to the starting XV with Tony Diprose keen to start a game for the first time in a while, with Jason (Leonard) coming into either side of the front row.
On the injury front, Alex Codling is progressing well with his hamstring injury and should be back in action before the end of the season. Alex has had problems with his hamstring ever since he played for England against Argentina back in June, and for this reason we are giving him every opportunity to shake this injury off once and for all. However, both he and Roy Winters, and now Simon Miall, continue to work with John Kingston on the opposition lineout analysis.
Pat Sanderson is progressing well and there is even an outside possibility that when we make the Wild Card play-offs, he could be fit to play some part in this competition.
And it is the Wild Card play-offs that have to be our aim. If we were to finish seventh (and possibly eighth) then we will be in the play-offs with a chance to qualify for next seasons Heineken Cup. Of course, we are not mathematically safe from relegation yet, but we are a lot better off than the five clubs below us.
Friday night's game against Leeds Tykes will be a tough encounter but one that if we perform, we have every chance of getting a result. Phil Davies and his Leeds team will have different ideas, but we are looking forward to the challenge.
To those of you heading up to Leeds tomorrow afternoon, we all appreciate your efforts traveling up the M1 on a Friday, and we look forward to seeing and hearing you at Headingley.
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.