Apologies for my non appearance last week, but picking up Dave Von Hoesslin from the airport at 6.00am on Thursday morning, followed by a series of meetings and then a minor road traffic incident, which resulted in a burst tyre, meant I was out of the office all day. Unfortunately, Friday was not a lot better and therefore it was almost 4.30pm before I had the time to pen this weekly piece, which I considered to late.
On to events at Welford Road last Saturday afternoon (29th January) and I think that most fair judges believed we deserved a point for our performance against Leicester Tigers. Until Julian White came on in the last quarter our scrummage competed well, our lineout was very good and our re-start kicks and receipts were excellent. Going into injury time eight points behind we had every possibility of getting that bonus point, but two 50/50 decisions went against us (this is not a criticism of the referee, just a statement of fact) and the opportunity was lost.
We all know the position we are in. We have 20 points, seven points behind London Irish who are in eighth place in the Zurich Premiership table. We have eight games remaining, five at home and three away, the first of which is against Gloucester at the Stoop this Saturday (5th February), kick-off 2.00pm.
We will not be announcing our team until Friday lunchtime as we wait on a few late fitness tests, but I can confirm that Andre Vos will return to the team having missed the last three games due to an ankle injury. Also available this weekend is Jim Evans, who made a successful comeback from his shoulder injury in the Zurich A game against London Wasps two weeks ago (24th January).
On the injury front, Andy Dunne remains off his feet having had a screw put into the broken bone in his foot while Maurice Fitz Gerald, although not needing an operation on his neck injury at this stage, is unlikely to play again this season.
I am delighted to announce that Ceri Jones has signed a new two-year contract that will keep him at NEC Harlequins until at least June 2007. Over the next month we will be starting / finalising negotiations with a number of our existing players with regards to signing new contracts and these will be announced as and when they are signed. It is always amusing to see us being linked with players in the press, but as ever we will not comment on any new signings until negotiations are complete and the contract has been signed.
The next three months are vitally important for NEC Harlequins. We all know that we need to start picking up points to start moving up the table. Gloucester, possibly like us, will be missing three or four players for this game, but that is always the way in the Premiership both with injuries and international call-ups.
This will be the first game at the Stoop since the West Stand was demolished. There is no doubt that the Stoop has an odd look to it with a wooden fence down one side of the pitch. So with one side of the ground being a building site, it will be more important than ever that the 8,000 NEC Harlequins supporters in the ground get behind the team and give them every encouragement during the game.
Look forward to hearing you all in full voice on Saturday afternoon.
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.