Last Saturday's second win over Montauban showed the strength of our squad. With only two player's unavailable and making ten changes to the team that won in Montauban the previous week, it was a very good performance, which means that this Saturday afternoon we face Brive in the 1st Leg of the Quarter Final of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup, with the return leg on Sunday 1st February in France.
Brive are a very good team led by their fly half Alain Penaud, they have a strong pack with Second rows John Tait (Cardiff and Canada) and John Welborn (Australia) probably the best known names on this side of the channel.
On Monday evening our 2nd XV played London Irish at The Stoop and disappointingly lost 13-12. After some of our performances at this level earlier in the season, it was a shame to see the team put in such a disjointed performance, something I am sure they will look to bounce back from in the three fixtures they have during the month of February. The next game is against Saracens at Old Albanians on Monday 2nd February kick off 7.30pm.
On the international front Ceri Jones continues to train with the Welsh squad each Monday, and England are expected to name their Six Nations Squad next Monday, with a training camp on the 2nd and 3rd of February before opening up away to Italy on 15th February.
We have seven players named in the England U21's squad, Chris Bell, Ugo Monye, Andy Reay, Henry Barratt, Adrian Jarvis, Tom Williams and Tom Parker, and they will also be at an England training camp on the 2nd and 3rd of February.
Playing Brive in the Quarter Finals of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup will bring back memories of the 2001 season when we won this competition having beaten Brive on their own ground in the same round of the competition. That day Will Greenwood scored from some 80 metres having been put away by Paul Burke. The atmosphere in The Parc Municipal Des Sports that afternoon was fantastic, and it would be tremendous if we could give the Brive team a taste of the same at The Stoop on Saturday afternoon.
Both of our two injured players, Josh Taumalolo and Simon Miall, are expected to return to full training in the next few weeks which is tremendous news for them both as they have battled to get back from long term injuries. The hard work that they have put in, along with our medical and fitness staff is a credit to them all, and it will be great to see them back in action very soon.
And so to Saturday. It is the 1st leg and therefore whatever the score is at full time on Saturday afternoon; it will only be half time and there will still be a very difficult job to do in Brive whatever the score. We do not know an awful lot about Brive, what videos we have seen are from pre-Christmas French league action. What we do know is that, as against any French team, it will be tough. They are, after all, one of the best teams in France, as the saying goes the league table does not lie, and they are top!
Look forward to seeing and hearing you all on Saturday.
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.