Friday, 23 August 2013

Season's Preview: Harlequins


Founded: 1866

Years in Top Tier: 25

Last Year: 3rd in Prem (69 points), Anglo-Welsh Champions, Heineken Cup Quarter Finals

Europe: Heineken Cup

Director of Rugby: Conor O’Shea


In: Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton), Nick Kennedy (Toulon), Paul Sackey (Stade Francais)

Out: James Johnstone (Saracens), Rory Clegg (Newcastle), Miles Mantella (London Scottish), Pete Browne (London Welsh), Henry Taylor (Unknown), Chris Brooker (Worcester), Ollie Kohn (Retiring), Will Skinner (Retiring)

Ins: 3

Outs: 8

Big money Quins have opened the cheque book this summer with a trio of expensive new players as they aim to wrestle back the title they lost at Welford Road last May. 

From European Champions Toulon they have prised Nick Kennedy, the former London Irish lock was a crucial part of the Toulon team last season; from title rivals Northamtpon they have enticed specialist film makers favourite Paul Doran-Jones; from flash French capital equivalent’s Stade Francais they have picked up Paul Sackey.  Sackey moves on to his 4th English club after Bedford, London Irish and Wasps. 

Those big money moves have been designed to offset the loss of more than 40 stones from the right hand side of their scrum as behemoth James Johnstone departs to Saracens and gargantuan Ollie Kohn retires to a life of sausage fiddling. 

Those big guys will be a tough act to follow even for such illustrious signings.  One of Quins main strengths in recent years has been that once they won the hit at the scrum you simply couldn’t overturn the momentum generate by the right side of Johnstone and Kohn.  Doran-Jones is unfortunately a better film star than scrummager and Kennedy was always the lineout “genius” to Bob Casey’s girth at London Irish.

Their bulk was also hard to stop in the loose, generating a huge amount of front foot ball.

Quins back row is amongst the best in the business and their half backs are in the top three as a pair if not the best duo.  But without that grunt up front I think we might see them slide back into the pack a bit as they will have to travel to Bath and Northampton in January, Gloucester in February, and welcome Exeter and Worcester to the Stoop in the depths of winter.

They face Clermont, Racing and Llanelli in the Heineken Cup which is also sure to test their strength in depth during those difficult November-December-January-February months.

Prediction: 5th

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