Preparations are now in full swing for our trip to France next week. The training programme has been prepared, although local temperatures in excess of 100 degrees may mean they'll be some changes to this.
We were a little surprised yesterday to discover that next Wednesday we are playing both Beziers and Montpellier! It appears that a local tri-club competition has been arranged, although no-one bothered to tell us!
The arrangements for this are as follows:
6.00pm - Beziers squad to be introduced to the crowd
6.30pm - Beziers Vs Montpellier (40 Minutes)
7.15pm - NEC Harlequins Vs Montpellier (40 minutes)
8.00pm - NEC Harlequins Vs Beziers (40 minutes)
I know that the squad are looking forward to the trip, although with an 8.00am flight from Stansted next Tuesday, I am not at all convinced they are looking forward to the early morning start.
The second game against Castres in Millau has been confirmed as being an 8.00pm kick-off on Tuesday 19th August, and all these games will be an interesting part of our pre-season preparations. The results will be of little consequence, but it will be a good to see how the skills that we have been practising since 30th June can be used in a match situation.
When we play Beziers next week, we are likely to face one of last season's squad. Earlier this week we agreed the transfer of Argentinean tight head prop Pablo Cardinali to Beziers on a one-year contract. Pablo had limited opportunities with NEC Harlequins last season, and with both Jon Dawson and Laurent Gomez fit and competing for the tight head position we felt it would be best for Pablo to get the opportunity to play elsewhere. We wish him all the very best at Beziers.
The only doubt for the squad to travel to France is Paul Burke. Paul is currently with the Ireland squad in camp at Athlone, as they prepare for their first World Cup warm-up game against Wales next weekend. If Paul is selected in that squad, which seems likely given Ronan O'Gara's injury, then Adrian Jarvis will travel in his place.
The squad will be released later today, with only the players who are fit to take part in the two matches being taken. This means the likes of Tani Fuga (just back from New Zealand), Scott Bemand and Karl Rudzki will remain here at Aldershot to continue their rehabilitation.
There is now just a little over a month before the start of the Zurich Premiership and our first game against last seasons champions London Wasps. After the pre-season games in France, there will be three other fixtures when we get back:
Monday 25th August Vs Gwent Dragons, kick-off 2.30pm at Rodney Parade, Newport
Friday 29th August Vs London Welsh, kick-off 8.00pm at the Stoop
Friday 5th September Vs Saracens, kick-off 7.45pm at the Stoop
The excitement is now beginning to build towards the new season.
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.