It is stating the obvious, but I will do it anyway, Sunday's match away to Bristol Shoguns at the Memorial Ground is a vital game for NEC Harlequins, as we battle to move away from the bottom of the Zurich Premiership table.
With five games to go, every game is like a Cup Final to Quins and with our reputation for being a 'Cup Team' this should stand us in good stead. We know that Sunday's game will be far from easy. Bristol may have had some disappointing performances away from home in recent weeks, losing at both Leeds and London Irish, but only a month ago they beat Newcastle at home comprehensively and their form overall this season at the Memorial Ground has been very good.
Last night our Second XV put in a tremendous performance to beat a very strong Army team 59-13. There were very encouraging performances from a number of our players. Mark Evans and the rest of the management team were very impressed with youngsters such as Henry Barrett, Max Wilcox and Daryl Griffin, as well as senior players such as Dan Luger, Garrick Morgan and Ace Tiatia who all played with tremendous commitment and desire in the first half before being taken off. The performance of the entire team certainly presented the coaches with a number of selection problems for this Sunday.
It was also the first chance for the Quins supporters who attended the game to see our Fijian full back Norman Ligairi. Norman is a tremendous runner with the ball and could prove an exciting addition to the squad.
On the injury front, Keith Wood will captain the side this weekend having missed out on Ireland's win over Italy last Saturday and Bill Davison played his first game for two months last night having recovered from his broken hand. Of the youngsters, Mark Ireland and Mark Scrivener are both currently unavailable for the 2nd XV and the U21's, otherwise the health of the squad is good, aside from our injured number sevens. David Wilson is still waiting to have a scope of his knee to assess the cartilage damage, Pat Sanderson is now resting his injured knee before commencing his rehabilitation programme and Tu Tamarua has returned to Australia where he will have an operation on his dislocated shoulder.
Following last night's performance, Dan Luger will return to the starting XV on Sunday with Matt Moore being unlucky to drop to the bench. Ace Tiatia will start in the back row, a position he has played for Super 12's side Otago and Nick Greenstock will come in for Chris Bell, who is representing England in Italy in the U19 Championships.
I know that a large number of supporters will be travelling to Bristol this weekend to support the team. It does make a massive difference to the lads. Our win against Newcastle has given us the opportunity to control our own destiny over the next few weeks and winning on Sunday would be another step on the road to Premiership safety. Bristol will fight tooth and nail to win the four points as well and your support will be greatly needed and appreciated.
I know the team are looking forward to the game and giving our supporters something to cheer - let's hope we can do you all proud.
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.