Last Saturday, the domestic rugby season finished with Gloucester defeating Bristol in the Zurich Championship Final at Twickenham. On Monday, players from NEC Harlequins returned to Aldershot for the start of pre-season training.
At this stage clearly not all the squad are back, with various players away on international tours and others having only recently finished the World Sevens series in Cardiff - but we have started the road back to fitness in preparation for the new season.
Under the tutelage of Paul Pook and Dave Bell, the squad are being put through their paces both in the weights room, on the track and on the circuits of pain that Paul and Dave have designed. Over the next few weeks, the entire squad will return to Aldershot, with full rugby training commencing on Monday 8th July. At this rate, it will not be long before the new season will be upon us!
With the departure of Richard Hill to Newport, we will be looking for his replacement over the coming weeks to join Mark Evans and John Kingston on the training field with the squad.
On the player front, we are now very close to announcing one or two new signings, but we will have to wait until all the legal niceties have been completed before we are able to make the news public. There is still one position that we are looking to fill, but there is plenty of time before the season starts.
This weekend sees a feast of international rugby with Ireland taking on the All Blacks, Wales playing South Africa and France playing Argentina. The England squad has arrived in Argentina for their two-match tour. With the majority of the senior players wisely resting at home, it will be a great opportunity for Clive Woodward to look at some of the younger players available to him prior to next years Rugby World Cup. Good luck to our own Keith Wood, who will lead Ireland against New Zealand on Saturday.
England playing Argentina will obviously remind us all of the Football World Cup game last Friday and I am sure the squad will look to continue the success of the football team. It is tremendous that England have progressed to the second round of the World Cup, along with Ireland, and I am sure that we all want to send our best wishes to both squads as they look to progress in the competition.
Last Friday, NEC Harlequins won the 'Club of the Year' award at the Premier Rugby Marketing Awards dinner. This is a tremendous achievement for the club and especially for Tony Copsey and his team at the Stoop, who have worked tirelessly over the last two seasons to move Quins forward. Time that the playing side joined them me thinks, as we strive to make NEC Harlequins one of the best rugby clubs in northern Europe.
I am away on annual leave next week, but will return to update you upon my return the following week.
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.