At this stage of the season there are 12 teams who have all prepared well. The squads are fitter than ever and everyone has recruited well, bringing in class players to further improve the quality not only of there team but of the Zurich Premiership as a whole.
It is that time of year when everyone, players, management and supporters alike, are filled with a undying optimism that this will be their teams year Ã± they will challenge Leicester for the Premiership, they will have a successful European Campaign and probably go to Twickenham in the Powergen Cup.
At NEC Harlequins, we know that we must improve on our league performances from last season. Five wins out of 22 games is simply not good enough Ã± and that is all we achieved last season in the Zurich Premiership. Having said that we will not set ourselves targets for the season as they tend to come back and haunt you. What we will look to achieve is a level of consistency in our performance that was lacking last season. At times, against Leicester in the cup, against both Newcastle and Sale in the Premiership, we played some tremendous rugby but unfortunately this was all too infrequent.
On Saturday, we start our new league campaign with one of the sternest challenges possible. Gloucester finished second in last seasons Zurich Premiership and then went on to win the Zurich Championship, which has been re-vamped and improved for the new season. They are many peoples favourites to challenge Leicester for this seasons title, and there is no doubt that with the arrival of Thinus Delport, Peter Buxton, Simon Amor and others into what was already a very strong squad, they will no doubt have every chance of building on their success of last season.
Our team to face Gloucester was announced yesterday, with only Dan Luger, Roy Winters, Tani Fuga and Nick Duncombe unavailable for selection.
Dan continues to progress well with his re-hab programme. However, with an injury such as his Ã± cruciate ligament rupture Ã± it will always take time for a full recovery, but Dan remains on course to be back in action in the New Year. Like wise with Roy Winters, who is still in plaster after rupturing his achilles tendon, but we expect to see him back in action after Christmas.
Fortunately, both Tani and Nick should be back a lot earlier. Hopefully we will see them both in action in Quins colours before the end of September.
And so we turn to Saturday. Like you, we are looking forward to the start of the new season, the challenge of facing Gloucester, with Leicester away the following week, and the opportunity to perform in front of our loyal and vociferous supporters. The atmosphere at the Stoop for our final game of the season against Leeds last year is something that will remain with all of us for a very long time. If you were to reproduce just 50% of this on Saturday, it would give the team a tremendous lift as they set about performing against the Cherry and Whites.
The time for talking is nearly over Ã± on Saturday it is time for action.
Hope you are looking forward to it as much as us - see you at the Stoop.
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.