Stadium: The Twickenham Stoop
A dip in form. After 3 consecutive appearances in the league playoffs, Harlequins finished 8th last season, and never looked like securing a playoff spot. They were inconsistent throughout the season, and also failed to get out of the group stages in both the European Champions Cup and the LV= Cup. There has been no kneejerk reaction with managerial sackings down at the Stoop, but clearly some rebuilding needs to be done. Harlequins coach Howard Graham also admitted that Harlequins did not get their recruitment right over the last few seasons, which in part contributed to last year’s poor league finish:
“We have recruited better than we have in the last few seasons… In certain positions we looked thin. We’ve bulked out in the areas that we need to, we have a bit more depth in those key positions that weren’t as strong in the last couple of years.” Source
Harlequins have looked to immediately plug their recent drop in league performance by making a number of high profile signings. They’ve brought in seasoned internationals with the likes of James Horwill, Adam Jones, Jamie Roberts and Tim Visser coming in. Whilst these are all great signings for Harlequins, they will be unable to play until after the World Cup has come to its conclusion, and on top of that the other core England players that already play for Harlequins will also be unavailable. All these players will need time off to recover before the season starts, and all the other knock-on implications of joining a squad late. Lack of experience with playing with each other, no preseason together, won’t know the lineout moves or calls… the list could go on here. Basically, joining your team for the first time when the season has already begun = bad for Harlequins.
For that reason, I’m predicting a 9th place finish. They have looked to add quality to the squad, and address some of the areas that were lacking last season. I think this will be a transitional season for Harlequins, and that they’ll look to rebuild and develop from there.
- Strong academy / youth prospects – Harlequins have contributed a large number of their players to the England U20s team over the years, and continue to do so. A number of these players were getting more chances this season with the number of injuries they had last season, such as Jack Clifford, James Chisholm and Kyle Sinckler. Expect these boys to make the step up, and maybe even knocking on the door for an England call-up in the not-so-distant future
- Individual brilliance and flair in the backline – Harlequins have a large number of internationals in key areas of the park, the likes of Nick Evans, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Joe and Mike Brown form the spine of the team. All these players are a step up from your average premiership player, and can often be the difference between turning a game on its head with a spark of genius.
- Heavily dependent on a few players – Whilst they do have quality players at the spine of their team, Harlequins look a significantly weaker side when they’re not present. So much so that they had to resort to loaning Tim Swiel from the Natal Sharks last season because of their lack of backup quality at the club.
- Lack of strength in depth – much weaker team when there is an international break. Even though they’ve signed numerous high profile signings, some of them will be unavailable in the international periods, and has not fully fixed the squad depth issue that was apparent last season.
England Captain. The openside flanker has been a key performer for Harlequins long before he was selected for England. Despite giving the captaincy of Harlequins to Joe Marler, still an influential figure both on and off the pitch for Harlequins.
The England scrumhalf is all about upping the tempo of play, loves a tap and go and is able to create that spark to bring a game to life. Can show moments of brilliance as shown here vs Clermont: A game changer and a key player for both Harlequins and England.
The England and Harlequins fullback will be hoping that his recent concussions are behind him, and that he can reproduce the scintillating form that made him the Player of the Championship in the 2014 Six Nations. Has put himself as the first choice 15 for England, and with the quality England have in the fullback position, speaks volumes of Mike Brown’s ability. But don’t just take my word for it, have a look at this tribute video for him and decide for yourself:
|James Horwill||Lock||Queensland Reds|
|Adam Jones||Prop||Cardiff Blues|
|Owen Evans||Prop||Newport Gwent Dragons|
|Tim Swiel||Flyhalf||Natal Sharks|
|Jamie Roberts||Centre||Racing 92|
|Joe Trayfoot||Flanker||London Irish|
|Aseli Tikoirotuma||Winger||London Irish|
|Darryl Marfo||Prop||London Welsh|
|Tom Casson||Centre||Yorkshire Carnegie|
I see this being a very patchy season for Quins. The additions to their squad are much needed, after resting on their laurels the last few seasons, relying on the same group of players that won them the title in 2011/12. But most of these signings wont be available till after the world cup, and I don’t think they’ll have enough time to gel and move Harlequins into the top half of the table. I expect their performances to improve as the season goes on however, and hopefully they’ll be back to their best soon.
What do Harlequins fans think? Will they improve on last years performance? Will their new signings hit the ground running? Or will it be more of the same?