Given all the off-season shenanigans that has diverted the attention of so many, one or two people might be a little surprised that the season starts in just over a week. Not us though, we can’t wait, and here we look forward rather than back at Harlequins’ potential this season.
Chris Robshaw is a key player for Quins
John Andress (Exeter Chiefs)
Josh Drauniniu (Exeter Chiefs)
Lewis Stevenson (Exeter Chiefs)
James Johnston (Ponsonby)
Karl Dickson (Bedford)
Rory Clegg (Newcastle)
Gonzalo Camacho (BACRC Argentina)
Chris Malone (London Irish)
De Wet Barry (Southern Kings)
Charlie Amesbury (Newcastle)
Mike Ross (Leinster)
Phil Davies (Pau)
Andy Gomarsall (Leeds Carnegie)
Alex Rogers (released)
Mickey Ponting (released)
Peter Bracken (released)
John Brooks (released)
James Inglis (released)
Shane O’Connor (released)
Tom Sargeant (released)
Junior Polu (released)
Up until a few weeks ago, Harlequins were looking to all intents and purposes like a squad on the threshold of some major honours, the majority of their players about to peak and a director of rugby with the respect, pedigree and proven ability to match any.
Then the sword of Damocles that had been hanging over them the whole summer fell, severing the seemingly indestructible bond between Dean Richards and the club and causing a major disruption to their development.
Quins have commanded more column inches this summer than all twelve normally manage during the season, and it’s not surprising given that Bloodgate has been an extraordinary story that continues to unravel. The use of blood capsules and the bungling efforts to cover it up have been reported and discussed ad nauseam, so in an attempt to put it behind us, we won’t dwell on it here – instead, looking at their prospects for the season after such a disastrous summer.
In terms of player movements, Chris Malone, De Wet Barry and Charlie Amesbury were probably the poorest of an exciting back-line and will not be a significant loss. Mike Ross and Andy Gomarsall have served the club tremendously well but there are other players ready and willing to step into their shoes.
If Josh Drauniniu can transform some of his sevens skills to the 15s game, he could be one of the signings of the season and Rory Clegg looks ready to command games at the highest level.
On the face of it, the club have retained all their star performers from last season, cut out the dead wood and signed some exciting prospects. They now have a squad capable of challenging on multiple fronts but the real test will be how much of their success was down to the man at the helm and how much of an influence his departure will have.
My instinct says that the squad will be galvanised by the vitriolic coverage – after all, only a handful of people were involved in cheating, and it was the support staff rather than the players that were orchestrating it. I think they’ll come out fighting at Twickenham, and if they can live with the inevitable sledging they’ll receive, their attacking mindset and playing style will win back the supporters’ hearts and all will be forgotten by November. We hope.
Just through pure playing prowess they should reach the play-offs, however, as much as I would love a team with such attacking verve to make the final, I think they will be pipped.
Prediction: 4th (losing play-off semi finalist)