Four weeks into the season, four wins out of four and back to the top of the table. As you can imagine, the Harlequins camp is a happy one at present, but no one is getting carried away.
There is still a long way to go, starting with Saracens at the Stoop on Sunday and the 2011 Premiership Champions will be eager to show the
A couple of points have been at the forefront of the coaches’ minds in our recent meetings.
Keeping Players Fresh vs Consistency of Performance
The first has been how to keep the squad fresh. Specifically, ensuring that the guys playing every week get enough rest and how you keep those not playing, connected with the group.
The natural drop off in numbers given the intensity and physicality of the modern game will ensure that the majority of your squad will get a run out at some stage and the fact that we used 43 players in our run to the Premiership last season backs that up.
Coaches are constantly striving for consistency of performance and that often comes with consistency of selection.
A good exercise for any coaching group is to independently write down what your best team is and compare your picks.
If you are miles away then it is probably a fair indication that you are mis-aligned somewhere in your thoughts.
That’s not to say you should all agree, but it’s certainly a starting point. I would be fairly confident the senior coaches at Quins wouldn’t be a million miles away from picking the same players in their 1st XV!
Our best performance of the season came at Welford Road on Saturday, with just one change to the starting XV from the Final at Twickenham in May (Matt Hopper at outside centre). In comparison, Tigers had just three players starting – Parling, Mafi and Allen.
The cohesion, understanding and belief that comes from playing week in, week out, is intangible and is often over-looked.
There will be injuries and players will get natural breaks during the season. Don’t be quick to rest, rotate or change your best players when you don’t have to.
There has been a lot of emphasis on the attacking nature of the Premiership so far this season, with tries, bonus points and scoring all on the increase.
I can categorically say our approach to attack hasn’t changed over the summer, with still a huge emphasis on keeping the ball off the deck.
It is no surprise then that we are top of the offload ladder with 66 in four games, but we have been keen to stress to all the players that decision-making in the contact area is key.
A single offload can get you behind the defense, a series of offloads can be devastating, but a loose pass to the floor can often lead to a try the other way.
If you are looking to add offloading to your game plan, you have to place your players in situations in training where they can be accountable for their decisions.
Yes, it is a product of winning the collision, but it wont just happen. Be creative, don’t be afraid to try new games or drills and encourage the players.
If you jump on them the minute they make a mistake, don’t be surprised if they don’t try it again!
By: Mark Mapletoft