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Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?


By Quins4life
July 5 2016

With the summer internationals finally coming to a close, you would have thought we would finally get a chance to catch our breath and get a well earned break from thinking about the strains of being Quins and England (and the other home nations) fans. Alas we don’t as we now are getting to the stage when the fixtures for the 2016/17 season are being released and the club returns for preseason, which means we can once again start dreaming of what Harlequins can achieve. In order to look forward though, we must look back to last season and see what we have to improve on so that we do not face another season in mid-table and dreaming of what might have been. In a season which included us being the only side to have beaten the famous Maro ´unbeaten when he started´ Itoje, we subsequently dropped off and I have come up with a few areas which I feel we need to improve on this year so we can push on towards the top 4. With limited additions to the playing staff, you can presume that the coaching staff believe that they have the tools to get success, they just have to find the right way to use them. 

Set Pieces 
Whilst our scrum was much improved last season with the addition of Adam Jones, I am hoping Graham Rowntree can work his magic even further and can turn our pack into one that can be feared at scrum time. You cannot underestimate the influence of Sinckler being with the elite England squad too this summer where I am sure he learnt a lot. However, it was clear to all of us that we must improve at the lineout time, where to be honest we were a shambles for the majority of the season. This could be partly down to a lack of continuity with selection as all of our hookers couldn’t stay fit or in form but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse. This is where Rowntree must have his biggest influence as we cannot continually lose ball every time we have a lineout. I think we need to use preseason to decide who our best hooker is and then stick with him to give some continuity to it. 

Strength and Conditioning
 
This should be something that has already started with pre season starting last week and under this comes two points of equal importance. Firstly, over the last couple of season we have been ravaged by injuries and they always seem to come at key points in the season. By having had so many injuries over the past few seasons, you can hardly put it down to bad luck so we must be proactive and look for ways to ensure it does not happen again. So over preseason we must look at ensuring our players are in peak condition for the start of next season. Obviously injuries are part of a physical sport like rugby but that doesn’t mean we cannot protect the players bodies as much as possible to try and prevent weaknesses. Secondly, too many time last season we dropped off and were tired in the last 20 minutes of games, with the home game against Bath springing to mind. With our open and expansive style of rugby, we cannot afford to be this unfit so we have to improve this or we will face another long painful season. 

Squad Rotation
 
We must learn how to use our whole squad, something that Sarries, albeit with a bigger squad than us, did well last season. Too many times last season we found ourselves relying on players who had played very little rugby meaning they were not up to speed in games (Hopper and Tebaldi). Having the LV Cup next season back should allow us to rotate and rest more often but also the Challenge Cup could be a blessing in disguise as we should be able to give the fringe members of the 1st XV valuable game time in the team. This should mean we are better prepared for injuries to the first choices and the crucial 6 Nations period of the season which may not be as long next year but still will be crucial as ever. 

Physicality 
No game showed it better than that final thrashing against Exeter that we needed some more firepower in our pack. We were bullied by their pack and lost almost every collision. The signing of Mark Reddish should hopefully add a bit more grunt and experience to our pack, as well as the return to full fitness of our Pacific Islanders, Netani Talei and Mat Luamanu. It will certainly be interesting to see what combination the management settle on in the pack in order to provide that physicality but not lose the dynamic nature to it with Wallace, Robshaw and Clifford.

Jamie Roberts 
Jamie Roberts is perhaps our one true world class player as on his day there is no one better in world rugby at what he does. However, I got the feeling at the end of last season we were struggling to find the right way to use him consistently. If we find a way to get the best out of him, we will score a load of tries with the wingers we have as defences naturally focus on him more due to his ball carrying ability meaning there will be more space out wide. 

Kicking in Open Play 
Too often last season our exit kicking put us under more pressure as we did not consistently find touch or good distance. Take the Saracens game at Wembley as a good example of how we just continually invited more and more pressure onto ourselves due to aimless kicking downfield and normally to Billy Vunipola. With the addition of Jackson and hopefully the full fitness of Evans, we will be able to create a better kicking strategy than just booting it downfield and hoping for the best, especially when our kick chase was often poor and slow. 

Well those are six things which I think are crucial for Quins to improve during the offseason in order to have a better finish in May 2017. Whilst there is a huge amount of foreign talent coming to the Premiership next season, I still remain confident that we can compete for the higher positions next season and we only should be fearful of Saracens as they won’t let up despite doing the double next season. Champions Cup rugby qualification is the minimum we should expect out of next season and anything less than that should be considered a complete failure with the players we have. But I cannot wait for the fixture to be announced so we can start mapping out our route to twickers and premiership glory!

COYQs!!!

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Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
ComeAllWithin.co.uk (IP Logged)
05/07/2016 17:21
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Shack (IP Logged)
06/07/2016 09:01
Great summary
I would just like to add defence to that list as we shipped a lot of fairly easy tries last year and we have done over the last few seasons.
Watching England defend in the 2nd test V Oz I asked myself could I see Quins being able to defend like that.
Unfortunately I couldn't but I live in hope eternal!!

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
thomh (IP Logged)
07/07/2016 21:14
Based on Roberts' performances in NZ, I think the end of season issue might have been that he was fundamentally exhausted, rather than that we didn't know how to use him properly. Hopefully he can come back fully recharged.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
poorfour (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 08:57
Good article. When I think back to last season, the main thing that has to be fixed is the lineout. Of the games we lost last season, nearly all of them were within 7 points, and in nearly all of them we either gave points to the opposition or lost opportunities to score because of bad lineouts in promising positions.

After that, defence. It will be interesting to see what Minty's ideas on defence are and how effective he can be. I hope he's been watching what Gustard has done with England (and talking to our England contingent about it). We have a fast squad who could do something similar, it would further the players' England chances and it could be the cornerstone of creating the kind of togetherness that he's said Quins need to rediscover.

I don't know if the physios can get and keep enough players fit to end our seemingly continuous state of injury crisis, but that would also be a big boost.

The other changes are icing on the cake.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Jammy Git (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 09:14
Quote:
thomh
Based on Roberts' performances in NZ, I think the end of season issue might have been that he was fundamentally exhausted, rather than that we didn't know how to use him properly. Hopefully he can come back fully recharged.

The commentators certainly tried to make out this was the case, but Roberts had a big midseason break...

O Fortuna, velut luna statu variabilis,
semper crescis aut decrescis

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Adi Nako (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 09:22
I'd put defence above the line out personally.

We conceded 66 tries in the premiership last season. That gives us the 10th most porous defence (only Irish and Warriors were worse, both with 74. The closest we come to a team above us was Sale and they are still much better on 52. It's an appalling record, and somewhat surprising that we managed to finish 7th really.

I'd be interested to see the lineout stats for last season. I know lineout stats are particularly dodgy, but I don't think we were 10th worst last season.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
seequin (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 18:57
Completely agree. Defence was our biggest problem. Of course defence involves many different aspects. We need to clear our lines better and break up play. Also I think there were too many games when we threw the ball around wildly instead of managing the game.
How many times were we 25 points up and then conceded a load of points.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Hellequin (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 22:10
The problem with the line out last year was that it seemed to be at its worst when we were in good attacking positions. Which meant that the effect of any tactical kicking was reduced and blunted our attack.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Stoquin (IP Logged)
08/07/2016 22:44
I would settle for winning those close games that we somehow managed to lose points in eg Gloucester -home, Worcester - home, Leicester - away, Exeter-away, Northampton - home win those we would be top 4

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
rdc (IP Logged)
09/07/2016 13:48
I also think this is a great analysis. My tuppenceworth would be that the line out, especially those following a penalty kick in the opponents 22 were lost too often at crucial times and eve a few of these won could have transformed the season.

For years I have felt our kicking is poor and a huge asset to our oppenents. We neither find clear space behind defenders nor put the receiver under pressure. We invariably kick to their most dangerous player and let the attack us.

I would add that our basic passing is poor for a team that has a lot of emphasis on its offloading game.

We have some really exciting players, we have players who want to win, we do have a smaller squad, but I'd love to see us move back to challenge for top four. At present I think we are mid table club. By comparison with Wasps who almost went down a few years back, they have transformed themselves. We probably rank with Sale and Gloucester

COYQ!

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
RodneyRegis (IP Logged)
10/07/2016 13:16
Wasps took advantage of a unique season where teams were at half-strength for far less time than usual, during which they had barely any call-ups considering the quality of their players. In periods when all teams were full strength they beat about 5 teams in the top half. They have made some eye-catching signings, but these will need time to bed in. I may be in a minority of one, but I'm not so certain Wasps are destined for top 4.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Jammy Git (IP Logged)
10/07/2016 17:43
5 teams in the top half of a 12 team tournament? So... all of them, considering Wasps were also in the top half?

O Fortuna, velut luna statu variabilis,
semper crescis aut decrescis

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
RodneyRegis (IP Logged)
11/07/2016 12:13
Yeah sorry, I meant they won around 5 games against top half teams.
But you're right - I was way off. It was actually one game.

Sat 24th Oct 15 24 Oct 14:00 Wasps 16 - 9 Bath Rugby
Sun 8th Nov 15 08 Nov 15:00 Wasps 23 - 3 Gloucester
Sat 28th Nov 15 28 Nov 17:30 L Irish 15 - 33 Wasps
Sun 10th Jan 16 10 Jan 14:00 Wasps 32 - 22 Worcester
Sun 27th Mar 16 27 Mar 15:00 Falcons 20 - 34 Wasps
Sun 3rd Apr 16 03 Apr 15:00 Wasps 28 - 6 Northampton Saints
Sat 16th Apr 16 16 Apr 15:00 Warriors 35 - 54 Wasps
Sat 7th May 16 07 May 15:30 Wasps 38 - 12 London Irish



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2016:07:11:12:15:05 by RodneyRegis.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Grimsby Dave (IP Logged)
12/07/2016 08:37
All good points'I think better fitness and conditioning will pay dividends.The first thing Eddie Jones noticed about England in the World Cup was there lack of fitness ,they worked on it and within 6 months with the same players they have become a force to be recond with .I think we could show the same improvement.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Quinten Poulsen (IP Logged)
12/07/2016 11:30
The defence was far too poor. By the way the players ambled around with so little urgency and intensity at times, I suspect the problems with defence were more mental than anything else. The attitude shown against Sarries at home is what is required in every single game, yet we saw precious little of it throughout the season. IMHO the biggest change required is a change in attitude.

 
Re: Pre-season has started but where do we need to improve?
Jammy Git (IP Logged)
12/07/2016 15:28
I don't think you can expect that sort of defensive intensity in every game. You can only go to the well so often. But there's definitely a middle ground!

O Fortuna, velut luna statu variabilis,
semper crescis aut decrescis

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