A Happy New Year to all NEC Harlequins supporters.
Those of you who travelled to Vicarage Road last Sunday to see our defeat against Saracens may have lost some of your holiday cheer. For the third week running we contrived to concede a try in the first minute of the game, and further errors meant the match was all but over by half-time.
Over the last few weeks we have consistently conceded tries from individual errors be it missed tackles, dropped high balls or dropped passes. As a result of this, we find ourselves tenth in the Zurich Premiership table. The Premiership is now on hold until 26th January when we are at home to Northampton and already this looks like being a crucial fixture.
There are no excuses for the performance last Sunday, it was simply not good enough in so many areas, and the entire playing and coaching staff will now have to work very hard to ensure that there is a significant improvement in our performance over the next few weeks.
On the injury front, we have collected a few niggling injuries over the last couple of weeks. Keith Wood is recovering well from his calf injury and remains on course to be back ready for the Powergen Cup quarterfinal against Leicester on 19th January. Steve White-Cooper will be back in action in the back row this weekend against Munster, alongside Tony Diprose and Tu Tamarua. Having recovered from his knee injury, Nick Greenstock left the field at half-time last weekend with a broken rib and will be missing for a few more weeks.
Tani Fuga's rib injury is also improving and he should be back in action in the next two weeks or so. Adrian Olver is still struggling with his ankle injury although we are hopeful he will be fit to make the bench this weekend in Munster, and Scott Bemand will be out for a couple of weeks following a minor operation for the removal of a skin infection.
Although we cannot qualify for the quarterfinals of the Heineken Cup, this weekend's game against Munster, one of the best teams in Europe, will be a huge test of character for the squad. Thormond Park is one of the best rugby stages in the Northern Hemisphere and while we are aware that it is a difficult place to win (Munster have not lost there since 1979), it is the sort of game which everyone wishes to be involved in.
With the injuries we have, there will be opportunities for some of our younger players to shine; the likelihood is that Nick Duncombe will make his first start at scrum half this Saturday.
Off the field, Quins have come a long way in the last 18 months. Although we reached two cup finals last season we still have a long way to go on the playing side to match this and to provide our supporters with the performances that they deserve.
Thormond Park is not the easiest place to start, but the future starts on Saturday afternoon and we must be ready.
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.