First of all, a huge thank you to all our supporters who travelled to either Glasgow to Beziers to support the squad in our two pre-season fixtures. It was great to see so many Quins fans at both games.
The win over Glasgow was a good start to our preparations. Last night we lost to Beziers in what was a very physical and high quality game. It was a game that perhaps we could have won, but our error rate was too high and our set-piece play was not good enough against one of the best teams in France. However, prior to the two games we had not done a lot of work on either the scrum or lineout and we know that we have two and a half weeks to work on these areas.
Whilst the set-piece may have been disappointing, we also scored two very well worked tries and at times played some very good rugby. The scoreline of 33-22 probably does not reflect the closeness of the game, which turned on one interception try scored by Beziers when there winger took a pass five metres from the Beziers line.
While there were a few knocks and bruises picked-up last night, with over two weeks to go before we face Gloucester (31st August 2002) there is no-one who played last night who should not be fit for that game. In addition, we have to come into the squad Keith Wood, Jason Leonard, Alex Codling, Bill Satala and Nick Duncombe, so while losing was not acceptable, there is much to be positive about.
Bill Satala is becoming a saga all of his own. He has missed both of our pre-season games while we waited for the British Consulate in Fiji to finalise his Visa to enable him and his wife to enter the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, as with many other matters relating to this deal, this has taken rather longer than we would have expected. The Visa has now been issued and Bill is now trying to organise a flight to the UK, hopefully in time for the Middlesex Sevens on Saturday, but we will not be able to confirm this until Friday.
We should also be announcing soon a short-term signing to cover the hooker position. With Tani Fuga out with a broken hand until the end of September and Keith Wood away with Ireland as they compete in World Cup qualifiers, it was essential that we obtained some cover for Ace Tiatia over this period.
Following the game against Beziers, we were taken into the centre of the town for the first night of their festival of the bull. Over four days, one million people will visit the town of Beziers as part of this festival and the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. Beziers has a population of around 80,000 but there must have been double that number on the streets partying yesterday evening.
As we set-off to return home later today, we have an enormous amount of work still to do before the 31st August and Gloucester at the Stoop. However, this is why we planned the pre-season games so early, to give us so much time to prepare. The squad have responded well to the challenges they have been set so far and they are all looking forward to the hard work ahead.
A safe journey home to all those Quins fans who ventured into Beziers and I look forward to speaking to you soon.
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.