Monday (5th July) was like the first day of term as everyone returned to Aldershot for the first day of pre-season training. In addition to the established squad members there were new boys Dafydd James, Maama Molitika, Jeremy Staunton and Joe Mbu, as well as 14 new Academy players.
There was a buzz about the place as the boys got on with the various weight and fat tests that they were faced with before getting into the meat of their work later in the week. To see the likes of Ace Tiatia, George Harder, Andre Vos and Tony Diprose bubbling with enthusiasm for the hard work ahead over the coming weeks was tremendous to see, and is a great lead for the new Academy players to follow.
The first three weeks of training are predominately based on weights and body protection work, with some rugby skills work in between. Full rugby training will start on 26th July. By that time we will be joined by Mike Worsley, who is currently enjoying a well deserved break after his trip to Australia with England, new signing Maurice Fitzgerald, as well as the players who were involved in the England Under 21 squad that finished fifth in the recent Under 21 World Cup.
On the recruitment front, we are delighted to announce that we have been able to sign Samoan international scrum half Steve So'oialo on a two-year contract. Steve, who is currently with the Pacific Island Warriors preparing for their game against New Zealand this weekend, has played 32 times for Samoa including both the last two Rugby World Cups. He will be looking to join-up with the squad at the end of this month.
We are still looking for a third scrum half to complete this area of the squad as well as a possible further second row player, although we may have to wait a few months for the second row position to be filled.
Off the field, we are delighted that Season Ticket sales have now topped 4,750 and there is little doubt that we will reach the increased cap of 5,000 before the end of this month.
As ever at this time of the year there is a lot of hard work to be done and the enviable anticipation of yet another very tough season ahead. The Zurich Premiership will again be a very difficult place to play, with 12 clubs all capable of beating one another on their day. Our Heineken Cup draw pitting us against Munster, Castres and the Ospreys will also be a tough challenge, particularly the visit to Thomond Park which we are all looking forward to.
I hope you all have a good weekend and I look forward to catching up with you all next week.
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.