After last Saturday's victory over Leicester Tigers, we are now mathematically safe from relegation. Indeed, we can now focus on maintaining our current league position and qualifying for the Wild Card play-offs, with the aim of getting into next seasons Heineken Cup.
The Wild Card play-offs will be between the teams who finish fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in the Premiership table. The semi-finals will be played over two legs on 13th/14th and 17th/18th May 2003, with the team finishing eighth at home to the team finishing fifth in the first leg of the first semi and seventh at home to sixth in the second. The winners will then play in the Wild Card Final on 31st May 2003.
To guarantee our place in the play-offs we need one more win, and this weekend we travel to Gloucester to take on the current league leaders at Kingsholm. Gloucester are a fine team who have some of the best up and coming talent in the country. In the forwards they have Trevor Woodman, Andy Hazell and James Forrester, while in the back line there are the likes of Henry Paul, Marcel Garvey and James Simpson-Daniel.
It will be a difficult task to get a result at Kingsholm as Gloucester have a tremendous record on their home ground. However, our performances both away to Leeds and last weekend against Leicester show that we can stand toe to toe with the best teams in the country.
In terms of selection, for the first time for a long while Mark Evans has been able to name an unchanged starting XV, with the only decision being who will be on the bench, which will probably be left until Saturday morning.
On the injury front, Bruce Starr is now back in contention and Laurent Gomez is also close to returning to full fitness. Pat Sanderson is hoping to start taking part in some light rugby sessions next week and could be in contention to play again by Mid-May, if we were to make the Wild Card play-offs. Our injury list is probably the shortest it has been all season.
The atmosphere at the Stoop last Saturday was tremendous, and on behalf of the team I would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you who cheered the team to victory last weekend. I must admit to being incredibly moved by the tribute paid to Nick Duncombe as the team ran out onto the pitch - it was a very poignant moment.
As I said earlier, it will be a very tough task to get a result at Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon against a very good Gloucester team. However, we have got to believe that we are capable of beating any team in the Premiership, and it is a fantastic opportunity for NEC Harlequins to make their mark on the league with our final three games against Gloucester, and then Northampton Saints (2nd May 2003) and London Wasps (10th May 2003).
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.