Everyone involved with NEC Harlequins is looking forward with great anticipation to our game against the Cornish Pirates this Sunday afternoon (20th November) at the Twickenham Stoop, kick-off 3.00pm. There is no doubt that there has been an edge around the training ground this week; an edge that perhaps has not been there in previous weeks, as we all look forward to this encounter.
We have great respect for the Pirates players and coaching staff. They have quality players throughout the squad, and play an exciting brand of rugby which has allowed their wingers Richard Welding and Kevin James to score a total of 19 tries between them in all competitions this season.
However, it is an old adage in rugby that the game is 'won up front' and with the Pirates it is no different. That their wingers have been able to score so many tries is due in no small part to the efforts of their forward pack. Led by captain Joe Bearman, and ably supported by the likes of Will James, Alan Paver, Iva Motusaga and many others, they will clearly offer us our greatest challenge to date in National Division One.
I think it is fair to say that we 'took our foot of the pedal' last week against Sedgley Park; who in turn played far better than they had the previous week in the Powergen National Trophy. Scoring two early tries meant that we perhaps relaxed thinking the game was won, while Sedgley clearly had different ideas. It was a good 'kick in the pants' for us prior to this Sunday's game.
The team for Sunday will not be announced until tomorrow (Friday) but it is pleasing to report that there are no injury concerns after last weekend's game and training this week. Tani Fuga, who was withdrawn from last week's team as a precaution, is in fine fettle and has taken a full part in training in the early part of the week. A nice headache for Dean and his coaching staff to have!
On a much wider front, later today the IRB will announce the venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I do hope that the officials making this decision are able to look beyond the countries of the Tri and Six Nations. If our great game is ever to become truly 'worldwide' then they have to take the plunge and give this competition to Japan. If they do not, you do wonder if the game will ever be able to develop beyond the existing powerbase of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France, England and the rest of the home countries!
Sunday is going to be a fantastic occasion (providing of course we can remember where the Twickenham Stoop is, given that it has been so long since we last played there!), and will provide the team with a great opportunity to thank all our fans for the great support we have received since the end of last season.
We are all really looking forward to the challenge and also to hearing around 11,000 Quins supporters getting behind their team.
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.