Last Sunday (5th December) in Swansea, the better team (namely the Neath-Swansea Ospreys) on the day won. For whatever reason, we did not perform and as a result were well beaten; something we have to ensure does not happen again at the Stoop this Saturday (11th December).
After the pressure of playing eight 'cup finals' in a row as a consequence of our poor start to the season, subconsciously we may have breathed a huge sigh of relief as we approached last weekends Heineken Cup fixture. As a result we lacked the intensity and physicality that is required to win at this level.
It would be very easy to blame our defeat on some strange refereeing, but it was not the officials fault that we kept turning the ball over in the first half or that in the second half that our restarts were poor; that was down to us. We are a better team than the one that turned up at St Helens last Sunday and this weekend we have the opportunity to show our supporters, ourselves and the Ospreys that this is the case.
In stark contrast to our match last Sunday, anyone who watched London Wasps play Leicester Tigers will have seen a tremendous game of rugby. Both the skill levels and the physicality were tremendous; as good as anything seen at international level during the weeks preceding this fixture. I for one am really looking forward to watching the re-match on Sunday afternoon.
We did pick-up one or two knocks last weekend. Jeremy Staunton came off with a knock to the leg and Mike Worsley aggravated his back. Both of these players will miss out this weekend, being replaced by Adrian Jarvis and Maurice Fitz Gerald respectively. In addition, we are resting Tony Diprose, who will be replaced by Luke Sherriff, with Andre Vos moving into the number eight position. On the bench, we welcome back from injury Ace Tiatia.
Realistically, we can now not qualify for the quarterfinals of the Heineken Cup, but it is important that we quickly return to winning ways as we look forward to the Powergen Cup tie at Bath (18th December), along with two vital Zurich Premiership games against Saracens at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day and London Wasps at the Stoop on 2nd January.
On Monday evening (13th December), our Second XV travel to Kingsholm to take on Gloucester in the next round of the Zurich A League. This will be another opportunity for a number of our academy players such as Tom Muggridge, Chris Cracknell and Duncan James to impress. This game will also see the Second XV debut of our young centre Anthony Allen, who has just returned from Australia having represented the England Sevens team at the junior Commonwealth Games.
We battled hard last season to qualify for the Heineken Cup, it is important that this Saturday we put in a performance that does justice to those efforts. Look forward to seeing you all at the Stoop 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.