Apologies for the later appearance of 'Scotty Speaks' this week, but I have spent the last 24 hours flying back and forth between Belfast and Aldershot (via Gatwick) in order that we could have our new game analysis software installed at the training ground.
Tuesday evening saw a much improved performance from the squad as they ran out 63-3 winners over a spirited Grafton Belfast Harlequins team. The work we have put in on the training pitch in the last week was evident by a much more organised performance in all areas of the pitch.
However, we should not get carried away. The first half of the game was disappointing as we were far too predicable, but as soon as we brought some variation into our play we were able to put into practice the work we have done on the training pitch.
This Friday (20th August) we play our third warm-up game, this time against Ulster at Ravenhill Park. This will be a step-up in level from the game on Tuesday and will be another important stepping stone in our preparations towards facing London Irish on Saturday 4th September at Twickenham.
As ever at this time of the year, we have a few niggles which are stopping players from getting involved in the warm-up games. Although not playing this Friday, Will Greenwood, Dafydd James, Ugo Monye and Jim Evans should all be ready to face Saracens next Friday (27th August). Both Maurice Fitz Gerald and Joe Mbu are progressing well and should be back in action in September.
Making their first appearances this season against Ulster will be Simon Keogh, Tani Fuga and Jon Dawson alongside our new signings Jeremy Staunton, Steve So'oialo and Maama Molitika.
Our time in Ulster has gone well so far, a lot of work has been done both on and off the park, which has allowed the players to fully understand everything that we are trying to do. Last night, the entire squad went out for a meal organised by Ugo Monye and his social committee, and I understand that a good time was had by all, although the food may not have been quite what was expected!
These pre-season games are very important to us as they are the foundation for our Zurich Premiership preparations. With each game we are looking to add further aspects to our play so that by September we are ready for the challenge ahead of us in the Zurich Premiership.
Hopefully Friday evening against a strong Ulster team will help us along this track before we return home 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.