Club-by-club guide: Harlequins

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The Independent Online

Director of Rugby: Dean Richards

Captain: Will Skinner

IN Nick Evans (Auckland Blues), Epi Taione (Sharks), Neil McMillan (Ulster), Gonzalo Tiesi (London Irish)

OUT Adrian Jarvis (Bristol), Paul Volley (London Scottish), Hal Luscombe (Worcester)

First five games

Sep 6 Saracens (A)

Sep 13 Bristol (H)

Sep 20 Gloucester (A)

Sep 27 London Irish (H)

Oct 02 Worcester (A)

Lessons from last season

The multicoloured men would have sailed into the top four last season had it not been for a mid-campaign slump that saw them win only once in 13 games (in all competitions) between November and January. They recovered sufficiently to play some exciting rugby and give themselves a chance on the final day of the regular season but were pipped at the post by Leicester in the dying minutes. Dean Richards will be looking for more consistency from his youthful side, and should have a steady hand on the tiller in the shape of new flyhalf, All Black Nick Evans.

Weaknesses

When they’re good, they’re very, very good, when they’re bad.... And as last season’s winter wobble proves, their pack can prove lightweight when the pitches get heavy. Another Heineken Cup adventure could also take its toll on their strengthh in depth.

Strengths

Quins’ all-action back rowers Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner and Tom Guest could form a unit to be reckoned with this season, and cause Nick Easter to collect a few splinters in his backside. Out wide they boast pace to burn in Ugo Monye and David Strettle (right), while few centres outmuscle a midfield of Jordan Turner- Hall and De Wet Barry.

Player to watch

Nick Evans is the second high profile All Black to occupy the No.10 jersey at the Stoop, and Dean Richards will be hoping that his application and impact on the side are a marked step up from Andrew Mehrtens. The former Auckland Blue was No.2 to Dan Carter in the pecking order in New Zealand, which is a bit like being second best golfer in the world to Tiger Woods - you might be second best, but you’re light years behind the top dog. But Evans has the game management and nose for space that should sharpen up a youthful back-line’s killer instinct.

Did you know?

The Stoop, Harlequins’ home ground, is named after Adrian Dura Stoop, who played 182 times for Quins between 1901 and 1939 and won 15 England caps.

Prediction

With others improving around them, a tougher season awaits.

7th

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