Diprose looks ahead to Harlequins' opening Aviva "A" league game
2 September 2012 13:00pm
By Callum Sheppard
After the drama at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday afternoon, attention at Harlequins has now turned to Monday night's opening A League fixture against Saracens Storm at The Stoop.
Last year, Harlequins "A" finished runners up to the Exeter Braves and as the new season is upon us, Harlequins Academy Manager, Tony Diprose is wary of the early threat that teams can pose.
"Traditionally the first few 'A' league games of the season are the most replicating of first team rugby. Most squads are fully fit and have a wide selection pool ,so you will see more first team players playing than you would later on when some of the younger guys get an opportunity to come in.
"I'm expecting nothing different with Saracens on Monday night at the Stoop, they will field a really strong side. They have a deep squad and there will be some key players who didn't make the first team at the London Double Header."
While the A league provides regular and valuable competition for the younger players, it has a number of benefits for all involved.
"The Aviva 'A' league is about developing our players. That works in two ways, it might be giving some meaningful game time to some of the senior players, but it also gives some of the younger players the opportunity to get involved playing in the Harlequins style.
"We've managed to integrate that well and get that balance. It's always good when you have Luke Wallace playing with Will Skinner and Tom Guest, it gives guys like Luke the opportunity to learn from the senior guys."
One main aspect in the development of 'A' League players, is replicating the processes of the first team. As a result, if a player is required to step up to the first team, the transition is as seamless as possible.
"It's important that we put in place the same processes as the first team. We are very integrated in how we train and play, the first year Academy guys are now in, they are doing well, but they are expected to fit into training quickly. At times it can be tough, the scrum-halves have had it hard this pre-season. Nick Evans expects a certain quality of possession and they have to step up to that.
"This puts them under pressure and duress. We then work on their individual skills to gradually bring those up. The experiences they gain on the training pitch and during the 'A' League games gives them a very quick understanding of what's required at the highest level."
Harlequins Kick off the Aviva 'A' League against Saracens Storm at the Stoop on Monday night (7.30pm). Entry is free for season ticket holders and £5 for non-season ticket holders.
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.