Coach Howard Graham is hopeful Harlequins’ latest crop of young guns can follow in the footsteps of centre Joe Marchant during this year’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series.
Marchant was a pivotal cog in June as England lifted their third World Rugby Under-20 title in four years, scoring in the 45-21 final win over Ireland in Manchester.
It’s all change at Harlequins this summer, with long-standing boss Conor O’Shea moving to take the helm of Italy and John Kingston making the switch to director of rugby.
And despite Graham revealing Quins will play a largely youthful side in this year’s Singha 7s Series, he also insisted it was a wonderful opportunity for the next generation of stars at the Stoop to catch the eye of the new man in charge.
Quins will start their challenge for Singha 7s success on Friday July 29 at Franklin’s Gardens in a daunting pool stage alongside Gloucester Rugby, Northampton Saints and Saracens.
The competition also boasts an impressive list of alumni, including Elliot Daly, Christian Wade, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Kruis, Jack Nowell, Jack Clifford, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ross Moriarty, Freddie Burns and Marland Yarde – and Graham is keeping his fingers crossed Quins uncover their very own new star in July.
“The coaches will be watching,” said Graham, speaking at the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s launch at the BT Tower.
“It is a good starting point for the young players.
“I know John Kingston will take an interest in the new boys that have come in because he will not have seen much of them before and it will be the first impression that he gets.
“You know what happens with first impressions so hopefully all the boys will step up.
“All players want to test themselves. It is difficult for the young players coming in because they wouldn’t have experienced it before.
“So we get to see where they are mentally as well as physically in this competition.
“Once they have had a couple of seasons under that pressure they are ready for Aviva Premiership Rugby life. We have seen that with Joe Marchant.
“He was a good rugby player and now he has just calmed down enough and has now been selected for the first team and rightly so because he has had an excellent Under-20s World Cup as well.
“He is an outstanding centre. This tournament helps us develop players.”
The Singha 7s offers Aviva Premiership Rugby players their first taste of competitive action ahead of the new season – and Graham revealed the tournament is invaluable for preparation.
The exact structure of the Quins’ squad has yet to be confirmed but Graham insists whoever represents the club they will be gunning for silverware.
“Singha 7s gives you a marker early on with the players,” he added.
“We often use the academy players because of the timing in pre-season but it means we get to see them in a competitive environment.
“And they could play against anyone, you saw some of the players Wasps brought last year.
“There will be some excellent tests for the boys. It is great that we get some big crowds and they are under pressure – which would not normally happen.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff Arms Park with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets
Image courtesy of Getty, with thanks