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Harlequins 2018 Season Preview

By Nevs Left Boot
August 22 2017

It’s that exciting part of the season where almost anything seems possible for your team, whatever has happened last season can be forgotten, new coaches and players are welcomed as saviours and past results and failures feel a distant memory. We’re dusting off our shirts and counting down to the first game of the season proper!

This season, like so many recently, will be another closely fought affair and this should be welcomed. Here at NLB towers we’re a big fan of the salary cap – or more importantly the premise and reason for it. If the cap is operated properly and policed fairly (we know this has not always been the case) then we should see very little difference in the established teams in the league. If all teams are spending the same on roughly similar sized squads then the teams should be (in theory) relatively evenly matched. With the improvement of teams like Newcastle and Worcester, coupled with the yo-yo nature of Gloucester and Sale there really are no easy games in the league and (as it should be) anyone appears to be able to beat anyone else on their day. However, no longer can teams like Leicester, Bath and Northampton feel that they should always finish in the Top 4 and with Saracens and Exeter setting the standard for the last few years it would appear to be getting harder and harder just to make Top 6!

Quins squeaked into that top 6 position last season by virtue of achieving more wins than the team finishing 7th (Northampton) so the big question is, can Quins improve on this situation this season?

Quins have seen a few leavers from last seasons squad, although the majority of them we’re bit part players – It is sad to say goodbye to Karl Dickson and Matt Hopper who have played their considerable part in the recent success of the club and it is impossible to write down in words how much of a loss Nick Evans will be on the playing side of things. However the recruitment has been quite positive with Quins adding better players to the squad based on those leaving.

Lewis Boyce comes into the squad as a young prop who has cut his teeth in the Championship with Leeds, big things are expected of him and he is joined by seasoned campaigner and under-rated player Phil Swainston from Wasps – these guys replace Matt Shields and Owen Evans who never really seemed to be able to cut it at Prem level.

Dave Lewis has joined in place of Karl Dickson and with Charlie Mulchrone will be another reliable deputy to Danny Care, he has played a fair bit of Premiership rugby in his time at Gloucester and Exeter and I think the competition between him and Charlie will ensure that both push Danny hard this season.

Francis Salili arrives at Quins with a big reputation and in the little we have seen of him in the pre-season he certainly has some x-factor and if he can be given the right platform, I am sure he will be a success at Quins. He has the build of the ultra modern centre, he combines pace and power as well as having a wonderful (New Zealand style) skill set that means he can pass, off-load and kick out of hand. His acquisition will allow Harlequins to be an attacking threat and he will not be leaving the club at times in the season to play international rugby. His partnerships with Jamie Roberts and Joe Marchant could be very exciting. Add in the re-juvenated Harry Sloan and Quins centre options look improved from last year.

Renaldo Bothma appears on paper to be a super signing for the club, a player that is likely to play a big part in any success the club may have this year, he should be around to play most of the season and to support younger players in the squad when Robshaw et al, are representing England over the road. I think his style and skill set will bring a steely edge to the team that will compliment Horwill’s no-nonsense approach. At times last season, shorn of internationals and when injuries came to bite we looked a little callow and I hope that with Horwill, Bothma, Saili we have a spine that can carry us over the line during the international periods.

All this leaves only one position to fill, who will step into the throne that Nick Evans has left behind? Who will wear the crown and be the ring leader for our Quartered men this year?  It would appear to be wide open at this point. Tim Swiel is probably slightly ahead in the pecking order by virtue of actually playing some pre-season matches. Swiel is an exciting players who likes to play quite fast and loose, he will always look vulnerable to being intercepted and at times, when the pack is being ground down, I am not sure his ‘run from anywhere’ approach helps but he has a wonderful skill set, great pace and he’s not too shabby when kicking either.

Demetri Catrakilis is the new boy in the group, who due to an injury we have not seen so far. He has a good pedigree having learnt his rugby in South Africa playing for Western Province and the Stormers before heading over to France to join the Jake White South Africa infused revolution at Montpellier. He is a player that controls matches and loves to kick points (I read somewhere that he has never missed a kick at goal in a final!). With him and Swiel we potentially have two players with slightly different skill sets that might mean Quins can mix up their approach depending on the game.

It would be churlish not to mention one other surprise name in this little write up, I have to say I am very unhappy about Eddie Jones making such a big song and dance about Marcus Smith, not because I feel it puts undue pressure and attention upon the shoulders of the young lad in his first year as an academy player. More because he was going to be my tip all season to be the next big thing, having seen him play a few times for the U18’s last year. EJ has at least saved my friends from being bored by my bleating on about this wonderful talent, as he has already burst forth onto the Quins scene. It is safe to say that as an 18 year old, in his first few months at the club as a full time pro, he still looks a lot like a ball boy who has wandered onto the pitch – that is until he starts flying out the passes – chips over the top, kicks to corners and generally getting stuck in. He even has the heart of a lion in defence and once the conditioning guys get hold of him and he fills out a bit I reckon he will be much harder to shrug off.

So where does this leave us then? Right back at the start I reckon, I am genuinely excited for next season, I think it is going to be good – I think Quins will continue to win some games and lose some games. For Quins to improve on last season they need to pick up some LBP’s on the road. Last year we left Sale, Exeter & Bath without a single point when it would have been possible to have had 1 from each of those games. 3 points would have left us 4 pts behind Bath at the end of the season – those 3 pts coupled with 1 more win would have seen us climb the league. If Quins can finish the league in 6th or higher I think that has to be called a success, 14 points separated us and 4th spot last season, which is a big ask but with some continuity of selection, coupled with a few lucky bounces Quins could hopefully be challenging when the season comes to its finale!


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Harlequins 2018 Season Preview (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 09:02
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Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
DOK. (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 09:04
Great preview NLB. Reminded me there's a lot more happened over the summer than I thought, and a number of reasons to be cheerful, part 2018! smiling smiley

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Stoopendous (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 09:21
Great write up lads. Does this mean that you will be in action this season? Is the blog going to be produced? I hope so.

All the best


Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
JJQuin (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 09:25
Really good stuff - getting my usual mixture of nerves and excitement already! I echo Stoopendous' comments - hope there's more to come this season!

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
NicoWilson (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 10:20
Great preview. Thank you.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
RodneyRegis (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 11:39
Nice preview!

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
talkshowhost86 (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 11:43
Great write up which I think puts a rightly positive spin on our squad development from last year.

I don't think anyone can argue that the squad isn't stronger this season, apart from possibly at Fly Half where I think we will need to come to a decision on who the main man is otherwise we'll lack consistency in a crucial area of the pitch.

The other areas of slight concern are at lock, where without Twomey we look a bit light, and possibly in the back three if and when Brown, Visser and Yarde all go on international duty.

But generally we look in pretty good shape with some decent options across the pitch.

The question is have we improved more than those above us and enough to keep those below us at bay.

Personally I think that NLB has it spot on in that teams like Gloucester, Worcester, Sale and Newcastle (and even London Irish who will be much better than Bristol) are now more of a threat, but teams like Northampton, Leicester and Bath are there for the taking.

My own prediction is that we'll finish 5th/6th, but it's certainly going to be exciting.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
DOK. (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 13:35
And available with better pictures on the offy!

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Scaramouche (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 14:22

I too can claim that I have never missed a kick in a Final!

If at first you don't succeed, Try, Try and Try again.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Nev's Left Boot (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 14:22
Cheers for the feedback and comments guys.

No podcast this season though, we've hung up those microphones! We will keep posting things as and when using CAW - Off to the Premiership launch on Thursday - so will write up some bits from that and get it on the website ASAP!


Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
ChipsteadQuin (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 15:15
Thanks NLB enjoyed the preview - looking forward to hearing about the launch ...

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Stooperman (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 21:13
Great preview NLB.

However, I think what everyine is overlooking (& this may have happened after the report was written), is that without Wallace, & with Robshaw absent on international duty, we have zero 7s in the pack.

Yes we have Dave Ward, who I absolutely love as a makeshift 7, but to go into the season with your main 7 for half the season as a converted hooker and no back up is, to say the least, a bit of a worry.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Nev's Left Boot (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 21:31
Stooperman - it's a fair point. Not overlooked from our perspective.

Here is my view :
1) Quins can't just go and get another 7 - so you have to work with what you have. Ward at 7 may be the option- we have 3 other hookers in the squad plus academy options

2) I was not convinced Wallace was a nailed on starter, with everyone fit. In the past Quins have played without a traditional 7. My preferred back row of days gone by included Guest, Robshaw and Easter.
Quins can play a left and right option, with Robshaw and Clifford, leaving Luamanu to play 8. We also have Chisholm Jnr, who can fill in. It's not ideal, but it is what it is. When you throw in Ward, who is probably the best 7 option around, available. I don;t see it being so concerning.

We may find that the club manage to bring in a replacement, but chances are and history shows that they are likely to be squad players that can cover A-League etc.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Stooperman (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 21:52

Good reply, & I agree with some of what you say. However, I feel Clifford is an 8/6, Bothma is an 8, Luamanu is an 8/4. Also, whilst Guestie was one of my absolute fave players, he was very breakable...and we were blessed with the freakish unbreakability of nick Easter. Clifford seems to me to be an absolute replica of Guestie...talented, pacey, good hands - but ultimately 2nd fiddle as 6 or 8, and will never give you a full season.

I'm not being a doom and gloom merchant, I'm going to go out on a limb and say 5th this year, but the back row is the area that really concerns me.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Nev's Left Boot (IP Logged)
22/08/2017 22:24
Yeah it's all the same stuff I think really - I think in
Chisholm Jnr
Ward -
you have options...

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
HonkyTonk (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 07:52
Archie White is a seven isn't he???

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Fearless Fred (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 09:35
Archie White is a seven isn't he???

He's certainly a Back Row, as is Lamb and South can play there too (he was listed as a Back Row in the team announcement for the game agains LI:

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
HonkyTonk (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 09:46
South spent most of his time DR with Esher and then Richmond in the back row

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
T-Bone (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 13:11
Good write up, thanks. I hope you're right about Bothma. I know nothi9ng about him, but he seems to have been hypoed quite a lot, so hope he can live up to it.

the one point I'd disagree with is that Lewis looks to be an improvement on Dickson, unless I misunderstood that bit.

Otherwise I think there are definitely grounds to be optimistic. Can't wait now

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
COYQ_2017 (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 13:22
Bothma has played across the back row at 6,7 and 8 - although I'm guessing he's been signed as a long term replacement for Minty at 8.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Nev's Left Boot (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 14:17
Dave Lewis - 28 - over 100 Premiership appearances and previously an England Saxon.

what's not to like? Will compete well with Mulchrone...

Personally, wish we'd kept one of Stuart or Taylor to have this spot but you can't control the future.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
HonkyTonk (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 14:26
I think Calum Waters looks a good player

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
gregory p (IP Logged)
23/08/2017 17:26
That's a really good write up. I may - if I do any match reports - unashamedly steal from it. Plagiarism, like charity, begins at home.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Bedfordshire Boy (IP Logged)
24/08/2017 07:24
gregory p
That's a really good write up. I may - if I do any match reports - unashamedly steal from it. Plagiarism, like charity, begins at home.

Hope you me when you do some match reports.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Boonie (IP Logged)
24/08/2017 11:30
Nice preview - thanks!

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to bleat about it all over the internet"

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
25/08/2017 07:52
Good article but blimey...HOPING for 6th place....all very depressing (but of course totally realistic!)

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
DOK. (IP Logged)
25/08/2017 08:36
Well that's the effect of a salary cap - We only needed a few better results last season to make top four!

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
Nev's Left Boot (IP Logged)
25/08/2017 09:50
Talking to JK yesterday, it was interesting to hear him talk about how last season they went back to square one, he stated that they had made changes to the way the team attacks and defends and how these systems can only improve over time and also when things are not going right, players will revert, under pressure, to what they know meaning it didn't always fit together - if you take this as gospel - then 6th looks even better.

The key comment was that this year they will be better, he believes the squad is better and the adjustments the club have made to attack and defence are better as well. Obviously, the issue is that everyone else will have improved as well.

He was clear though, his goal is to win the league, to make Quins champions of England again, that is the long term aim and goal, it might not happen this season but everything they do is to work toward that.

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
SiBolton (IP Logged)
25/08/2017 14:56
Just to echo what others have said, a great preview
And have to add having spoken with a few of the players there just seems to be a good " Atmosphere" about the team
I think JK is really starting to make his mark

Re: Harlequins 2018 Season Preview
COYQ_2017 (IP Logged)
25/08/2017 16:02
"I think JK is really starting to make his mark"

It's only taken him 16 years! I'm joking btw :-)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:08:25:16:03:38 by COYQ_2017.

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