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2016-17 Season Preview

By Nev's Left Boot
September 1 2016

After the razzamatazz of the RWC made the last season seem like the longest ever, it has been quite nice to have a proper season break – although for a lot of our squad there has barely been time to rest before strapping on the kit for another marathon of rugby. The big question that every pundit and part time key board warrior is contemplating is “What will the season have in store?”.

For Quins one has to look back over the last few seasons before thinking about the future – Quins have been a team built on some simple rugby structures – the title winning team played fast rugby, coming round the corner with big men and flooding the channels they created with quick, nimble hands and feet. But crucially it was built on a very solid physical platform – Ollie Kohn, Big Mo, James Johnston; this platform has never really been replaced. Quins have never quite managed the same penetration to allow for the delicate parts of our game to flow. We’ve never played a traditional ‘Kick for territory game’ under Nick Evans and since George Robson left we have struggled with the Line out – key point here being the line out seemed to work more often than not with him playing with any of our current hookers!

Last season was ultimately a bit of a shambles – it started well in terms of results and it is easy to look back on the period leading up to Christmas with fond memories of victories and challenging for top honours once again. The victory over Saracens in January seemed to suggest that Quins could go on to challenge for bigger honours, considering the opponents and the nature of the game. In reality it precipitated a long, slow slide out of contention, first for the play-offs and, eventually, for Europe. In reality, in those early months it never felt like we were dominant or confident of victory – in hindsight perhaps other teams were a little off the pace?The announcement of Conor’s departure coincided with the start of this slump, and it’s difficult to assess just what impact this had on the squad. Suffice to say that, despite repeated protestations of wanting to finish his tenure with some silverware, the squad looked less cohesive at the end of the season than at the beginning.

With the arrival of the 6 Nations and the removal of our internationals, coupled with some bad timing for injuries, the wheels fell off Quins’ incipient challenge and it never really came back together. By the end of the season we never looked like winning (Montpellier) often and at times it was a bit embarrassing (Exeter) – and that was with a pretty much full choice XV.

Over the close season we have said good bye to Conor & with a shuffle around we welcome Graham Rowntree – a coach that I think it is safe to say most people would welcome at their club and one who managed to create quite a formidable pack during his time with England.
The rest of the coaching set up has a familiar ring to it – however there are key changes – Conor’s job has gone to John Kingston – he has stated that his job is much less hands on than Head Coach – he will be dealing with contracts and the direction of the team – Mark Mapletoft is now in the JK role – Head Coach – working with Rowntree and Colin Osborne and Nick Easter (Defence).

On the playing side we have welcomed a grizzled lock from NZ in the form of Mark Reddish, an aspiring full back in Aaron Morris (why we didn’t get Ben Ransom though I don’t know!), a prospect at prop in Cameron Holenstein, a wily old veteran at 8 in the form of George Naoupu, Charlie Mulchrone at 9 and Ruaridh Jackson at 10. It is safe to say that from a fans perspective (particularly as you see the recruitment of other teams) these are largely underwhelming signings however one has to remember the quality that was added to the squad last season in terms of Visser (international and top try scorer), Roberts (Lion), Horwill (Aussie Captain).

While not recruiting any stellar names (Wasps, anyone?) Quins are trying to plug some persistent gaps in the squad. Jackson should prove a more than able deputy for Nick Evans (or more experienced than Botica, at least) and Charlie Mulchrone is likely to put pressure on Karl Dickson, whose recent form has not always lived up to previous heights. The backline, indeed, shows a high level of promise and excitement: the emergence of Harry Sloan and Joe Marchant is great back up for our expected Roberts/Lowe centre combination, and we have pace to burn in the back three with Visser, Yarde, Morris, Chisholm and Walker all available.

The vital ingredient in all this is the forwards though. If we can’t get go forward ball, it’s going to be difficult to allow any of these players time and space to pose questions to opposing teams. We welcome Marler, hopefully fully recovered from what must have been a difficult time for him. Keeping Sam Twomey fit and adding the physical prowess of Netani Talei, sadly missing from last season.

 

It would seem that the starting XV is going to have a familiar look to it – with it being unlikely that any of the new boys will force their way in straight away – There are a couple of other squad things to consider from last season as well – The return of Netani Talei from injury is a boost to resources, the emergence of Sam Twomey who was fantastic last season, Joe Marchant is also starting to put pressure on for a starting spot – so these are all positives.

 

Possible V Probable XV (or starters versus cover)

Probable

Position

Possible (cover)

Mike Brown

Full Back

Aaron Morris

Marland Yarde

Wing

Ross Chisholm

Lowe?? Joe Marchant

Outside Centre

Marchant?? Winston Stanley

Jamie Roberts

Inside Centre

Harry Sloan

Tim Visser

Wing

Jonas Mikalcius

Nick Evans

Fly Half

Ruaridh Jackson

Danny Care

Scrum Half

Charlie Mulchrone

Joe Marler

Loosehead

Mark Lambert

Joe Gray

Hooker

Dave Ward

Kyle Sinckler

Tighthead

Will Collier

James Horwill

Lock

Charlie Matthews

Sam Twomey

Lock

George Merrick

Chris Robshaw

Flanker

Matt Luamanu

Luke Wallace

Flanker

George Naoupu

Jack Clifford

No.8

James Chisholm

 

 

 

Will Collier

Prop

Adam Jones

Mark Lambert

Prop

Cameron Holenstein

Dave Ward

Hooker

Rob Buchanon

Charlie Matthews

Lock

Stan South

James Chisholm

Backrow

Netani Talei

Karl Dickson

Scrum Half

Karl Dickson

Ruaridh Jackson

Fly Half

Tim Swiel

Ross Chisholm

Back

Matt Hopper

All the pundits have already stated that this is likely to be the toughest Premiership ever – Bristol will make a fist of it – they have signed seasoned campaigners and have enough to stay up, whilst potentially bloodying the lip of one or two teams. Of the other teams at the lower end, Newcastle will pick up points just based on the geographical nature of their matches, Worcester finished well last season and have made some handy signings, but the significance of Ryan leaving, remains to be seen.
I think the top four or five teams, will be largely the same – with Saracens, Leicester, Wasps and Exeter all being too well set up to fall far.

Leaving a core of middle teams fighting for middle – Northampton, Sale, Gloucester, Bath and ourselves – Northampton were rugged if unspectacular last year – Sale have lost key players from last season, but travelling to the north west will still not be fun, Gloucester….who knows? They may have cracked it this year, or another year of unpredictability, and Bath have serious question marks over there squad – the first XV is still very very strong and with the right attitude it will be formidable but they are desperately light in key positions, centre being one of them and when the Autumn International and 6 nations come calling they are going to struggle to have a side unless urgent recruitment happens.

Quins – based on what I have seen in the pre-season are not really doing anything different. Very little penetration at times in attack, lots of one on one runners crashing into defenders. Scrums have been hard to gauge with them essentially being a mess.
In defence we have also looked easy to unpick – essentially if a team/players get behind us, they score – or we seem too narrow and they get round us and score. First-up tackling at times last year was appalling, and we lacked aggression that would fend teams off. If that hasn’t changed, it could be a long and painful season.

The missing ingredient for Quins is also that ability to know each others’ game. Too often last season we relied on a moment of magic from one individual, and not the so-called “all court” game that won us the league title. Has another season for the likes of Horwill, Roberts and Visser helped this? Would we have benefitted from more freshening up in the coaches? That could be the difference between a top 4/6, exciting season, and a lower-mid table slog that flirts with relegation.

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2016-17 Season Preview
ComeAllWithin.co.uk (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 10:26
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
ChipsteadQuin (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 17:07
Thoughtful account Nev , good observation on the Line outs , everyone is always quick to blame the Hooker when it goes pear shaped.

JK talks about his 'all court game' , I see it as Plan B , backs to the wall and trying to grind out a result , hopefully with the likes of Horwill , Reddish , Naoupu , Talei and Robshaw (not to mention the younger guys) that we have enough 'grumble and grunt' up front to get the job done , they have to work together though which brings me to your
point about knowing each others games , that is absolutely spot on and crucial ..lets hope the learning curve hasn't been too steep ...

either way looking forward to the season as always and really hoping this squad can achieve for themselves and us !..

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
JJQuin (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 17:32
Good preview NLB - thanks. I guess we can add in Alofa Alofa and Dan Murphy into the possibles/backup too.

One question - I see you have Jonas Mikalcius in as a possible (and I know he played in the pre-seasons) but I thought when interviewed at the Sevens he said he had another year to go at Hartpury, as he is dual registered with them and the academy - do we know for definite he will play for us this year?

PS can we expect more podcasts this year, please?

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
Quint Eastwood (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 18:34
Whets the appetite nicely for Saturday.

None of the press pundits seem to think Quins will finish in the top 6.

Given the selection of Kingston as DoR in preference to a number of Antipodean rivals - the comparison with Blackadder at fellow under-achievers (Bath) will be a sub-plot to the season. Matt Dawson on Radio 5 thought it would be between Quins and Bath for 6th slot.

Let's hope the elite players think more of club than country and there is far more consistency in performance from week to week across the whole season.

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
Fearless Fred (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 18:36
Mikalcius has only just joined the Academy this summer, but I think he's been fast-tracked into the overall squad, given how he featured in the pre-season games (and with Stanley and Walker apparently sidelined with niggles). That's not to say we'll trow him into the deep end if we don't have to. He looks an exciting prospect, but I'd hope we can use hime sparingly as he gets used to top level club competition. I'd guess that we'll see him more in the A-League and Anglo-Welsh games....

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
poorfour (IP Logged)
01/09/2016 21:48
I always think the pundits overestimate the impact of new signings.

If we look at last season, for all our faults we were only beaten by a big score in the league on two or three occasions - in each case by AP semi-finalists. Pretty much every other game we were in a position to win late in the day.

We coughed up too much ball in our own half, lost too many lineouts in good positions and were too inconsistent.

Kingston has promised to improve the exit strategy. Rowntree ought to be able to improve the lineout, and Minty has made it clear he wants to get more commitment in defence.

We need to get the season underway well, and then pick up points from the Exeter and Sarries games. A bit of momentum could make all the difference.

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
rdc (IP Logged)
02/09/2016 06:36
A very thoughtful and incisive piece. I tend to agree with almost everything. I heard somewhere here that Lambert might have an injury and Murphy is cover for him. I think our key signing is Jackson, because if he comes good and provokes Nev to play his best then then our whole back line fires. Nev showed flashes of his best against Irish , but it was just that ...flashes.

We need to up the work rate a la Eddie Jones and rely less on waiting for the magic to ignite. I ope Nick Easter can inspire that grit.

Totally looking forward to tomorrow, but suspect the usual squeaky bum season and a mid table end

 
Re: 2016-17 Season Preview
Henry Gondorff (IP Logged)
02/09/2016 08:50
Full preview here also, different perspective. Please share if you find it useful. Thank you.

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