Harlequins RL head coach Brian McDermott has named an almost full strength squad for tomorrow’s annual pre-season friendly against National League Two side London Skolars. In previous years the match has seen Quins field more speculative sides based around academy youngsters, fringe players and a few first team core players looking to develop match fitness after injury, but the indications are that McDermott will be looking to make full us of this match, the only full fledged trial scheduled before the season opening against Wigan Warriors on February 9th.
The main absentees from the Quins line-up are utility back Chris Melling who has suffered a reoccurrence of the groin injury that disrupted the later stages of last season, new signing Gareth Haggerty who is not yet match fit following a shoulder injury and fringe player David Tootill who is recovering from a knee reconstruction. Fans will however get a chance to see some rising stars from the senior academy set-up, including Lamont Bryan and Will Sharp who have been promoted to the first team squad for 2008.
The Skolars have yet to name a squad for the match, but will be looking to raise a credible challenge to a side sitting two leagues above them. The North London based side recorded their best ever season in 2007, ironically under the guidance of Latham Tawhai who has since crossed London to join Quins as an assistant to Brian McDermott. New head coach Tony Benson will be hoping his charges can pick up where they left off last season, with a strong performance against Quins providing a launch pad into their forthcoming Northern Rail Cup campaign.
Both clubs hope to use the event as a springboard for attracting corporate sponsorships, with Quins in particular yet to confirm a main sponsor for the new Super League season, and last season’s sponsor Sports Cafe have recently entered administration. Both the timing and venue of the match, a lunch time kick off at Moorgate’s Royal Artillery Gardens, are aimed squarely at the many financial institutions close by. Sponsorship for the game itself has already been attracted from a number of finance sector companies, who will be hosting investor seminars before the game. Tellingly all corporate hospitality for the event sold out well before the general match tickets.