Harlequins must be one of the most difficult teams to predict as we approach the 2007 campaign. With a new coach and a number of high profile captures and departures, it will perhaps take a few games to work out just how well they are going to do, in their second season under the Quins banner.
The arrival of former Australia half back Scott Hill is a major coup for the club, and the signing of Danny Orr went through rather quietly, which could turn out to be a rather shrewd move for the club. The former Castleford man was getting some sort of form back at Wigan last season, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he can re-capture his glory days from his time at The Jungle.
After Paul Sykes’ lengthy absence last season, his return will be like having a new signing, and under the new outlook of Brian McDermott, the Quins have turned to a number of British players to bolster their squad, perhaps without adding much dimension to the starting 13. In come Tootil, Melling and Grayshon, but whether they are going to be regulars in the team, it’s hard to see.
If their starting 13 can play at their peak then Harlequins will be a match for most teams around them. It’s their strength in depth that has to be a worry. You feel that an injury to Henry Paul, Orr, McLinden or Sykes could disrupt the team too much. Having said that, should they all stay fit, then they have a quartet of game breakers at their disposal.
Their pack was dealt a harsh blow with the double departure of Solomon Haumono (retirement) and Sione Faumuina, who went back home for personal reasons. But with the very much underrated Lee Hopkins and Rob Purdham in the back row, Quins can boast yet more quality. It is up to the props to provide ground work for this creativity to shine through though. Quins are going to have to dominate teams in the forwards to provide the space for Paul and co, and whether they have the ability to do this, I’m not quite sure.
Thomas Leuluai’s injury plagued two year spell has ended with a move to Wigan, but this shouldn’t be too much of a loss with the players that have come in. However, Luke Dorn’s understanding with McLinden is unlikely to be replicated, and to lose a player of his ability to a rival, may be a big mistake.
It’s Brian McDermott’s first full season in charge at The Stoop, and he’ll certainly be looking to fulfil his widely acclaimed potential. It is up to him to motivate the players in to a unit, perhaps something that was lacking under the leadership of Tony Rea. But if he can get the right combination of 13 players playing well, and they stay injury free, then the Quins might just be an outside bet for the top 6.
Prediction: 8th – not quite strong enough for the playoffs. But there’s not much to choose between the clubs outside of the big four, so literally anything could happen.