It is interesting to read the controversy I appear to have started in quoting a few stats a couple of weeks ago with respect to the ball we have won from our own scrum this season.
I have received a number of emails asking for similar figures with respect to the lineout. Well here they are - up to week 16 of the Zurich Premiership, we had won 79% of our lineout ball, with the best teams in the league being Bath and Leicester, who had both won 84% of their own ball, with the worst team having won just 74%. Again, these figures do not give any indication on the quality of ball won, but they give a fair reflection on which teams have the most efficient lineout in the Premiership.
So we turn our attention to our game this weekend (Sunday 13th March) against Newcastle Falcons at the Stoop, kick-off 2.00pm.
When we played Newcastle at Kingston Park back in September, Rob Andrew paid us a 'compliment' when he described us as the most cynical team in the league. However, as much as this may have upset our friends in the Midlands, the comment came out of frustration because we had been able to stop Newcastle from getting their game going by contesting the tackle area in a legal way. We did lose the penalty count that day but there were other factors that contributed to that, rather than us competing vigorously in the tackle area.
The team to play Newcastle will not be announced until tomorrow (Friday) but only two members of the squad that played against Bath are unavailable this weekend. Gavin Duffy is on the bench for Ireland against France in the Six Nations Championship, while James Hayter has finally succumbed to the groin injury he has been carrying for the last few weeks. James will be having an injection either today or tomorrow and will then require two weeks rest before returning to training.
Earlier this week it was confirmed that our Zurich Premiership game away to Leeds Tykes has been re-arranged for Tuesday 26th April to avoid clashing with the Powergen Cup Final. Unfortunately, the options available for the re-arrangement were very limited. England Rugby Limited would not allow the game to be played on Sunday 20th March, and I dare say that with Leeds losing various players to the Six Nations they would not have wanted to play on that day anyway.
In addition, with Leeds in the semi-final of the European Shield, the weekends of the 2nd and 23rd April were also not available. This only left us with a mid-week option, which is not ideal for anyone. It costs a fortune for hotels and transport mid-week and clearly makes it very difficult for supporters to travel to Leeds, but as I said earlier there was little or no other option available.
We all know how important our game against Newcastle on Sunday is. Our win at Bath a fortnight ago moved us up to tenth place in the table but as we are only to well aware, any team in the Premiership can, on any given day, beat any of the other 11 teams. It is important that we continue to pick-up points not only to ensure that we move away from the bottom of the table, but also to give us the opportunity of qualifying for the Zurich Wild Card play-offs.
You support on Sunday will, as ever, be crucial. The more you get behind the team and the more noise you make the better.
Mark Evans has kindly allowed me a weeks holiday next week for good behaviour, so I will speak to you all again on Thursday 24th March.
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.