Since our last game against Saracens (7th February) we have spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that the players are fully fit and fresh for this Sunday's (22nd February) encounter with London Wasps in the Zurich Premiership, kick-off 6.00pm.
The week after the Sarries game, the squad underwent a number of rehabilitation sessions as well as doing weights and conditioning, with the rugby limited to some simple skill sessions. This week we have concentrated more on the rugby, but again the priority has to be to ensure that everyone is fresh and raring to go for what will be a hugely physical game on Sunday.
On Monday evening (16th February), our Second XV beat Wasps 64-22 in the Zurich A league, and it was particularly encouraging to see both Simon Miall and Josh Taumalolo coming through a full 80 minutes without too much reaction to their respective injury problems. Simon is fine while Josh has a very stiff back, but in the circumstances this was to be expected. Both are likely to figure in the 22-man squad to play Wasps at the weekend.
Of the other injury news, Paul Burke is recovering well from the neck injury he suffered against Saracens but is likely to be beaten by time in terms of facing Wasps. Jim Evans has recovered very well from the shoulder injury he picked up in the same game and may well have been fit to play on Sunday had he not picked up a bout of food poisoning on Monday evening. The only other doubt for the weekend concerns Rob Jewell, who suffered an ankle injury in the 2nd XV match at the start of the week.
Our next Zurich A league game is against London Irish at Sunbury on Monday evening (23rd February), kick-off 7.30pm. The following week we face the Army at Aldershot on Wednesday 3rd March, again with a 7.30pm kick-off.
Away from Aldershot, it was very encouraging to hear that all our representatives in the England Under 21 squad performed well in their win over Italy last Saturday (14th February), with Adrian Jarvis collecting the Man-of-the-Match award in his first international game at this level.
With both Will Greenwood and Chris Bell representing England this weekend at full and Under 21 level respectively, the England Under 21 management team has agreed to release Andy Reay for this Sunday's game and he is likely to partner Mel Deane in the centre.
After the match at the weekend, it is four weeks before we play our next competitive first team fixture when we are away to Leicester Tigers on Friday 19th March. We are therefore giving the players a ten day break from Aldershot, once they have completed their recovery programme on Monday. It is a long season that started back in June, and at this time of year it is absolutely essential to keep everyone fresh and enthusiastic, particularly when we have so many important games to come in the closing weeks of the season.
Sunday will be a huge physical challenge. Despite Wasps injuries, they are a very strong outfit who play a collision style of game, looking to physically intimidate the opposition. Against Saracens our forwards made over 140 tackles; it will be no different this weekend.
Look forward to seeing you all at the Causeway Stadium.
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.