This Sunday (27th October 2002), we return to action in the Zurich Premiership away to Bristol Shoguns at the Memorial Ground, in what is the first of a series of crucial games that will go a long way to determine which half of the table we are to spend the rest of the season contesting.
After Sunday we face Bath (H - 2nd November 2002), Saracens (A - 10th November 2002), London Wasps (H - 17th November 2002), Northampton (A - 23rd November 2002) and Saracens (H - 30th November 2002) in five vitally important games.
There is little to dwell on from the performance against Caerphilly last weekend, although to see a crowd of over 4,000 at the Stoop for what was effectively a dead game was absolutely fantastic. The best that can be said is that we won and qualified for the next round of the competition, where we will face Stade Francais. The first leg will be at home on Saturday 7th December 2002, with the second leg away in Paris on Saturday 14th December 2002.
Stade have a great record in Europe, losing narrowly to Leicester in the Heineken Cup Final only two years ago. Coached by former South African coach Nick Mallet, we will face two very tough games in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup against one of the leading sides in Europe.
Unfortunately our injury list is not getting any shorter. Unavailable for selection this weekend due to injury are Keith Wood, Pat Sanderson, Roy Winters, Paul Burke, Chris Bell, David Slemen and Dan Luger, with Andre Vos arriving in England next Wednesday morning (30th October 2002).
Having said that, the news on a number of these players is very positive, with Keith Wood, Paul Burke and Chris Bell all expected to return to action in Quins colours during November. With competition for places already tough, these players returning to action will make Mark Evans and the coaching staff's think even harder each week as to the make-up of the starting XV.
With both Paul Burke and David Slemen unavailable, Will Greenwood will play at fly half this weekend. Will has not started at number ten since playing there for England Schools. On that day he scored a hat-trick and was then dropped for the next game in favour of Paul Burke!
Turning to Bristol, we should not be fooled by their lowly league position. Despite missing one or two players through injury and suspension, they do have a strong squad and last weekend had a tremendous win over Montferrand in the Heineken Cup. Any team that has players of the calibre of Augustine Pichot, Gareth Archer, Phil Christophers, Alex Brown and Felipe Contepomi need to be respected, and there is no doubt we will face a tough battle in Bristol on Sunday.
As I said earlier, Andre Vos will arrive in London on Wednesday morning, having led the Lions in the final of the Currie Cup on Saturday afternoon. On behalf of everyone at Quins, we would like to wish Andre all the very best in his last game for the Lions, and I hope that he has the opportunity to lift the Currie Cup as a victorious captain on Saturday evening.
For those of you travelling to Bristol, I hope we can improve upon our performances at the Memorial Ground which in the last two years have been bitterly disappointing. Last season, one journalist even described our performance as 'Barbarian.' Raise the roof for the team and you never know what might happen!
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.