Friday, 11th January 2019 @ 19:00
Head of Rugby Paul Gustard's programme notes ahead of the visit of Grenoble
Hello, happy new Year and welcome back to The Stoop, for our first home game of 2019 in this very important Challenge Cup fixture against Grenoble.
We were delighted with our start to the second half of the season as we scored five tries at Newcastle Falcons last weekend to lift ourselves into third place in the Gallagher Premiership with a bonus-point win.
We haven’t had much success in Newcastle in recent years so it was great to put in a performance that we are capable of producing and get a victory that was thoroughly deserved. I have been very happy with the progression our attack has been making in recent weeks having scored 13 tries in the last four fixtures and consistently creating line breaks through the variance, sharpness and options in our play. It is also great to see special set-piece plays being so effective. We strive to be innovative and challenge the thinking of opposing teams, creating doubt and opportunity in equal measure! It goes hand-in-hand that, as good as the attack planning has been, the players have brought the plans to life and deserve immense credit for their continued attitude and aptitude.
We continue to make progress with our set-piece and have dominated teams in this area which is testament to the work our Scrum coach Adam Jones and Forwards coach Alex Codling have put in, and also of course the want and the will of the players to make this a strength of our game. The boys continue to work hard on our defence and through their collective efforts, desire and resilience we consistently create turnovers by reducing time and space on the opposition - and have a great time doing so!
As always we reflect on our recent performances and know we are still to produce our best 80 and as such we continue to invest heavily in ourselves and our preparation to give us the optimal chance of victory on any given Saturday. And that is undoubtedly the most exciting thing – there is much more to come!
Regardless of who has been given the opportunity to wear the jersey I have been equally very happy with the boys that haven’t! Their effort in training and energy is crucial in terms of creating realistic pictures and problems that are most probable and most possible to allow the 23 that we select to represent them as a squad and the club as a whole.
Another player who received huge acclaim last weekend is Mike Brown, who pulled on the quarters for the 308th time, breaking the Club’s all-time record for most appearances. It is an incredible achievement from a player that epitomises all that is great about Harlequins. We are very proud to have him in our squad and know that you will give him the reception he deserves at The Stoop today as he clocks up his 309th match. He always plays with fire in his stomach, his heart on his sleeve, and a giant smile on the inside! Bizzle – we thank you.
It has been a while since we have played at The Stoop which was against Benetton in the Challenge Cup in a match played in challenging conditions. The weather was brutal but our squad stuck to the game-plan and secured a victory that took us to the top of Pool Five. It was another example of this squad finding a way to win which is a constant sense of pride and satisfaction for the coaches.
A word of thanks also to all of you, and everyone at Harlequins, for putting on the magnificent Big Game 11 at Twickenham at the end of last year. It is an extraordinary achievement to sell out the home of rugby for a Premiership match and we were all delighted that we were able to deliver a win over Wasps to send our supporters home happy!
Finally back to this afternoon. Our destiny is in our own hands in the Challenge Cup, it is a tournament we have done well in historically and it is one we want to win again this season. We welcome the players, coaches and supporters of Grenoble to our home but, as ever, that is where the smiles end, the pats on the back cease and business begins. It’s a new year and a new chapter in our rich history is there to be written. Be part of it, make yourself heard and enjoy the day!
Tickets are still available for Harlequins v Grenoble on Saturday 12th January (kick-off 15:00) now. All Junior Tickets for the match are just £5, on a day that'll provide entertainment for all of the family. Tickets available at tickets.quins.co.uk