The Harlequins 2021/22 season promises to be a massive challenge for the current Gallagher Premiership Champions. After parting ways with their head coach Paul Gustard last season, the team set about playing an exciting brand of rugby to run the other Premiership sides off their feet. One by one, they picked them off and got ever closer to the playoffs.
Few pundits gave them a chance of winning the title with their free–flowing style of play. At some point, they would meet a side that would outmuscle them and squeeze the life out of them. But they kept going with their conviction to score more tries than the opposition. They faced Exeter Chiefs in the final, continued their high–octane style, and ran out worthy winners of the 2020-21 Gallagher Premiership title.
Most valuable player
Quins face some new challenges this season because they have become victims of their own success. Last season, they didn’t suffer as much as other teams with international call ups. There are players in the Quins side who England Head coach Eddie Jones can no longer ignore from Harlequins 2021/22. At the top of the list is, of course, Marcus Smith.
There can’t be many players who can top Marcus Smith’s previous season. Premiership champion, followed by a call up to the England squad, swiftly followed by an SOS from the British and Irish Lions in South Africa.
His rise has been rapid but unsurprising. In South Africa, he played in one Provincial game and gave a good account of himself. He has a considerable future, and Quins will have to get used to him being away on international duty.
A raft of players has left the club, including the veteran full-back Mike Brown and the exciting wing Nathan Earle who have both headed to Newcastle Falcons. In turn, Harlequins have signed some interesting new players, including the Italy fly-half Tommy Allan to back up Marcus Smith.
Key signing for Harlequins 2021/22
The biggest signing the club has made this season is the new head coach Tabai Matson. The coaching staff did a fine job at Quins after the departure of Gustard and allowed the team to express themselves, which led to the title. But every team needs a figurehead to drive them forward and be accountable when things go wrong.
It’s much easier for a new coach to come in when the team aren’t performing. It gives them time and space to start making improvements. If the fans and board members can see positive steps, then they are happy. When you join a successful team that has just won the title, then it’s a bit trickier. The targets are higher, back–to–back titles and the European Cup.
Matson is a vastly experienced coach and has spent time in the Premiership before with Bath. He said in a recent interview that he relishes the challenge ahead and doesn’t intend to come in and change much. He likes the way Quins play the game and will look to develop that further.
Harlequins 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership focus
Harlequins fans will hope that the new Kiwi coach can continue the prosperous times at The Stoop and get the club to the top once again. As champions, they have a big target on their back, and they will have to contend with more significant player availability problems this time around.
But very few thought that Quins would take the title last season, so they shouldn’t be written off as title contenders for this coming season either.
Last Word on Rugby will be assessing each Gallagher Premiership team in turn. You can read the Bath Rugby, Bristol Bears and Exeter Chiefs articles here.
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