NEC Harlequins

NEC Harlequins

For the rugby league club formerly known as Harlequins RL, see London Broncos.

Full name Harlequins Football Club
Nickname(s) Quins
Founded 1866;  (1866)
Location London, England
Ground(s) Twickenham Stoop (Capacity: 14,816)
Chairman England David Morgan
CEO England David Ellis
Director of Rugby Ireland Conor O'Shea
Coach(es) England John Kingston
Captain(s) England Chris Robshaw
League(s) Aviva Premiership
2012–13 3rd (Play-Off semi-finalist)
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

The Harlequin Football Club (The Harlequins or Quins for short) is an English rugby union team who play in the top level of English rugby, the Aviva Premiership. Their ground in London is Twickenham Stoop. For sponsorship reasons they were formerly known as NEC Harlequins, but principal sponsorship is currently held by Etihad Airways on a three-year term.[1]

When the game was amateur, many Harlequins players worked in the City of London and the club has retained strong ties to the financial sector. The club shares its stadium with the rugby league team London Broncos, who from 2006 to 2011 were known as Harlequins Rugby League and used a similar kit to the rugby union side.

In 2009 the club's reputation was tarnished by its abuse of the blood-substitution, in an incident which became known as Bloodgate. Since then Quins have worked hard to re-establish their good name. They were crowned winners of the English Premiership for the first time in 2012 and won the LV= Cup in 2013.


Formation and early years

The Hampstead Football Club was founded in 1866 and the first recorded game took place in 1867. The club was renamed Harlequin Rugby Football Club in 1870, supposedly because the membership was no longer purely local but the HFC monogram had to be retained. The word 'Harlequin' was found in a dictionary and all present agreed to the new name. This caused a split in the membership and the half that did not form the Harlequins went off and formed a club known as the Wasps.

During its first 40 years the club played at a total of 15 venues. Since 1909, they have only played at three.

In 1906, the club was invited by the Rugby Football Union to use the new national stadium in Twickenham. In those early days, only one or two internationals were played there during the season, and before long Twickenham became the headquarters of the Harlequin Football Club.

1961, first East Africa tour

In 1961, Harlequins undertook a tour of East Africa in conjunction with Pretoria Harlequins from South Africa, as guests of the Kenya Harlequin F.C. and the Rugby Football Union of East Africa; the club won five and drew one. The tour is notable for two facts, it was the first time that three sister clubs of the Harlequin family all played each other in a coordinated series of matches and at 19 days it was the longest overseas tour undertaken by a British club up to that time. Despite this, the tour pales to insignificance when it is realised the Pretoria club spent four weeks in East Africa playing eight matches and another in Rhodesia on the way home.

The London club arrived at Entebbe airport at dawn on 4 May and opened their tour with a 44–13 win against Uganda in Kampala on 6 May. They played West Kenya Province at Kitale (winning 24–6), and the Pretoria Harlequins on Saturday 13 May at the RFUEA ground, Nairobi (winning 13 – 11). The next two matches were played at the same location, beating the host club 16–0 the next day and earning a 9-all tie against Kenya Central Province on Wednesday 17 May. The last match for the London club was against Kenya at Nakuru on Saturday 20 May (winning 8–0). This last match was played under a typical "long-rains" shower that, though heavy, did not soften the hard ground enough to be a problem.

The team was seen off by a huge crowd of the Kenya rugby fraternity, departing from Nairobi airport on the evening of 23 May. Touching down to refuel in Entebbe after midnight, they found that a large contingent of the Ugandan rugby scene had turned up at the airport to wave them on their way.

Acquisition of the Stoop

In 1963, Harlequin acquired an athletics ground with 14 acres (57,000 m²) just over the road from the Twickenham ground, which became its training pitch. This has subsequently become their home: the Stoop Memorial Ground. This is named after Adrian Dura Stoop, who won 15 caps for England and is said[by whom?] to have been the person who developed modern back play.

League rugby and the professional era

With the introduction of leagues in 1987 bringing a more competitive environment, the Quins maintained their status in the Premier Division as one of England's top 12 clubs until 2005.

The club has won the Rugby Football Union clubs knockout competition on two occasions: the John Player Cup in 1988 and Pilkington Cup in 1991. In addition, they played in the finals of 1992, 1993 and 2001.

Harlequins hold the world record for providing the most players from one club (8) in a Rugby World Cup final. In the second ever RWC final at Twickenham in November 1991, seven Harlequin players appeared for England (Will Carling, Simon Halliday, Jason Leonard, Brian Moore, Paul Ackford, Mickey Skinner, Peter Winterbottom) and Troy Coker played in the Australian pack.

In the summer of 2000 an amateur team, Harlequin Amateurs was formed.

The Quins became the first British team to win the European Shield in 2001, defeating Narbonne 42–33 in the final. They then became the first team to win the tournament twice, defeating Montferrand 27–26 in the final of the renamed Parker Pen Challenge Cup on 22 May 2004.

In 2005 they were relegated to National Division One after finishing at the bottom of the Zurich Premiership. In July of that year they announced that they would be establishing a partnership with rugby league club London Broncos, which saw the two clubs sharing Harlequins home ground of The Stoop from the start of the 2006 Super League season. As part of the deal, the Broncos changed their name to Harlequins Rugby League, though the two clubs remain under separate ownership.

In 2005–06, Quins utterly dominated National Division One. They won 25 of their 26 league matches, including their first 19, losing only at Exeter Chiefs on 25 February 2006. Quins also averaged nearly 40 points per match, scored four or more tries in 20 matches, and racked up an average victory margin of slightly over 25 points. They secured their return to the Premiership on 1 April with four matches to spare, crushing Sedgley Park 65–8 while the only team with a mathematical chance of pipping them for the title, Bedford, lost 26–23 at Exeter.

For the 2008 tour to New Zealand, England coach Martin Johnson selected four Harlequin players to play for the tour, Nick Easter, David Strettle, Mike Brown and Danny Care. Also five Harlequin players were selected for the England Saxons Barclays Churchill Cup matches to the USA and Canada. Tom Guest, Chris Robshaw, Adrian Jarvis, Ugo Monye and Will Skinner were all selected with Will Skinner chosen as captain for the side.

2007–08 season

In the 2007–08 season Harlequins won 12 of their 22 Guinness Premiership matches and finished 6th in the league. Harlequins got off to a shaky start which saw them be in 2nd, 3rd 4th place consecutively, and during the latter half of the season Halequins managed to reach 3rd after a string of 7 out of 9 wins, but three defeats from London Irish, Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers to finish the season meant that Quins dropped to 6th and missed out on the play offs.

Two Harlequins players were short-listed for awards, Danny Care and Chris Robshaw, were short-listed for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award. As well as Coach Dean Richards being short-listed for the O2 Director of Rugby of the Season as well as Tom Guest being nominated for MBNA Try of the Season for his try against Leeds Carnegie on Sunday 13 April 2008.

2008–09 season

Players to leave Quins at the end of the 2007–08 season were Adrian Jarvis, Hal Luscombe, Chris Hala'ufia, Paul Volley, Nicholas Spanghero, Simon Keogh, Ricky Nebbett and Ryan Manyika. For the 2008–09 season Quins signed five new players; London Irish centre Gonzala Tiesi, Ulster Back-row forward Neil McMillan, Auckland Blues fly-half Nick Evans, Tongan international Epi Taione who plays on wing, centre and back row and Fijian utility back Waisea Luveniyali.

Quins finished second in the 2008-09 Guinness Premiership table. In the play-offs, they lost 0–17 at home to eventual losing finalists London Irish.

Quins also hosted their first "Big Game" at Twickenham over the Christmas period, playing out a 26–26 draw with Leicester Tigers in front of 52000 people.

In the 2008-09 Heineken Cup Harlequins came top of their pool, including beating Stade Français both at home (thanks to a dramatic last play drop goal from Nick Evans) and away in front of 80000 people in the Stade de France in Paris. They lost 5–6 at the Stoop to eventual tournament winners Leinster Rugby at the quarter final stage, a match in which the infamous Bloodgate Scandal took place.

2009–10 season

The contrast between this season and the previous season could hardly have been greater. With the shadow of Bloodgate still hanging over the club, the club struggled to an 8th place finish despite retaining most of the players from their successful previous campaign. They also made a swift exit from the Heineken Cup at the group stages while failing to chalk up a single victory in the competition. Owing to the club's lower league position, they failed to qualify for the competition for the first time in three years.

Quins also hosted their second "Big Game" at Twickenham. Despite losing 20–21 to "London" Wasps, the game attracted 76000 spectators.

Following the resignation of Dean Richards in August 2009, Conor O'Shea was appointed Director of Rugby in March 2010.

2010–11 season

Harlequins endured a mixed 2010–11 season, which was characterised by inconsistency. They finished seventh in the league, which was insufficient to ensure Heineken Cup qualification. However, they proved their potential with some inspiring performances on their way to the Amlin Cup final. This included a historic win away against Munster in the semi-final, where they became only the second club to beat the Irish province at home in a European Competition. Harlequins won the final (19–18) against Stade Français to win its 3rd Amlin Cup.[2][3]

2011–2012 season

Harlequins started the season well, winning their first ten premiership games before losing to Saracens at Twickenham Stadium in "Big Game 4" in front of a then club record for a premiership crowd, consisting of 82,000. Saracens went on to break the record again in the reverse game at Wembley Stadium with an attendance figure of 83,761, a game which Harlequins won. The club's results after the defeat to Saracens continued to be generally strong, with only three other defeats in the regular season and the club went on to finish top of the league. They played Northampton Saints at the Twickenham Stoop on 12 May 2012, a match which they won thanks to a 25–23 victory sealed with a try in the 77th minute by Joe Marler.[4] Harlequins beat Leicester Tigers on 26 May 2012, in the Premiership final at Twickenham Stadium to win their first Aviva Premiership title with a score of 30–23 in front of a 81,779 crowd. Tom Williams and Chris Robshaw scored the tries and Nick Evans scored 20 points through penalties and a conversion. Chris Robshaw was named man of the match.

During this season, Harlequins played in the Heineken Cup thanks to their victory in the Amlin Cup the season before. However, they lost out on a quarter final spot in the last game of the pool stage after a defeat to Connacht. Subsequently, they went into the Amlin Cup competition but were resoundingly beaten by Toulon. Harlequins also played in the LV= Cup but did not make it out of their group with two wins and two losses.

2012–2013 season

J.P Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series

Prior to the start of the XVs season, Harlequins participated (like all other Aviva Premiership clubs of the 2012–2013 season) in the Premiership 7s Series. Hosting the Group A tournament at the Twickenham Stoop, Harlequins failed to progress to the Final following two wins (over London Irish and London Wasps) and a loss (to Saracens) on bonus points difference.

Aviva A League

Parallel to the first half of the Aviva Premiership, Harlequins A team (a mix of Academy and First Team players) competed in the Aviva A League. Drawing with Saracens Storm in the first game, they went on to win their next four games securing a semi-final berth in the process before losing the last Conference game to Bath United. Level on league point with Saracens Storm they still topped the Southern Conference on points difference. Harlequins went on to beat Gloucester United (40–19) in the semi-final before getting the better over Saracens Storm (37–12) in the final, both times at The Stoop, to win the club's second title in the competition.

LV= Cup

Played during the Automn Internationals and the Six Nations the LV= Cup thus featured a Harlequins team stripped off its players on international duty. Choosing to rely on a team full of developing players, Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea showed the club was full of promising talents when it remained unbeaten throughout the pool stage and went on to beat Bath Rugby (31–23) in the semi-final at The Stoop and Sale Sharks (32–14) in the final at Sixways Stadium with names like Nick Easter, Nick Evans, Olly Kohn, Ugo Monye and Jordan Turner-Hall not featured on any matchsheet for the whole campaign.

This was Harlequins' third title in the English/Anglo-Welsh Cup and the first since the inception of the Anglo-Welsh format. This title granted Harlequins a place in the 2013-14 Heineken Cup.

Heineken Cup

Having qualified for the 2012-13 Heineken Cup on the virtue of their 2012 Aviva Premiership title, Harlequins produced a strong showing in the pool stage, remaining unbeaten in pool 3 against Biarritz Olympique, Connacht Rugby and Italian newborn Pro 12 franchise Zebre to be granted #1 seed for the quarter finals. However, they lost to #8 seed Munster at home 12–18 in the quarter final, despite leading 9–6 at half-time.

Aviva Premiership

Following their 2011–2012 form, Harlequins started their 2012–2013 season on a high with four straight wins before suffering a first setback at the hands of Saracens at home in round 5 (16–18) and at Exeter Chiefs in round 6 (42–28). The club then managed to stay within the first two places of the table. On 29 December Big Game 5 proved to be a success with a 26–15 win over London Irish before a capacity crowd (82,000) at Twickenham Stadium. Later in the season the second setback came in the return game against Exeter when the Chiefs managed a 16–27 defeat of the Harlequins at The Stoop. The slide continued as they suffered back to back away defeats against Saracens and Gloucester, losing 27–12 and 17–15 respectively. But they managed to secure their place in the play offs after a 26–42 win away in Worcester. They played Leicester at Welford Road in the semi final, but lost 33–16 after conceding 3 second half tries.

2013-2014 Season

Aviva Premiership

Harlequins made a disappointing start to the new season suffering two home defeats in their opening two games against Northampton and Saracens.


Main article: Twickenham Stoop

Harlequins play at Twickenham Stoop, which is situated in Twickenham in south-west London. The stadium is named after former England international Adrian Stoop, who was a Harlequins player and later president of the club.

The club acquired the then athletics pitch in 1963, a ground of 14 acres (57,000 m2), close by to the RFU ground. It became the training pitch, and eventually, the Harlequins home ground. The site provided a ground that could be developed, and since then much has been done in terms of upgrading with a current capacity of 14,816. The stadium was known as the Stoop Memorial Ground for many years, but it was renamed the Twickenham Stoop in 2005.

"Bloodgate" cheating scandal

Main article: Bloodgate

During the quarter final of the 2009 Heineken Cup against Leinster, Harlequins wing Tom Williams came off the field with what turned out to be a faked blood injury in order to facilitate a tactical substitution of a place-kicker, which could have landed the club a lucrative place in the Heineken Cup final. An investigation by the ERC and the RFU revealed that blood injuries had also been faked by Harlequins to enable tactical substitutions on four previous occasions. These findings resulted in a twelve-month ban for Williams – reduced to 4 months on appeal, a three-year ban for former director of rugby Dean Richards and a two-year ban for physiotherapist Steph Brennan as well as a £260,000 fine for the club.[5][6] The club chairman Charles Jillings subsequently tendered his resignation[7] while the club doctor Wendy Chapman was suspended by the GMC for cutting Williams's lip to hide his use of the blood capsule.[8] On 2 September 2009, it was reported that the disgraced Harlequins club had narrowly escaped being thrown out of the Heineken Cup following the scandal when the board of organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) said it approved of the bans and fines already handed out.[9]

The affair was dubbed by many in the media "Bloodgate" and has left the club with a reputation as 'cheats' with three proven incidents of the medical staff colluding with coach Dean Richards to abuse the blood-substitution rule. The rule was brought in to help with player welfare but was shown to have been abused by former policeman Richards, along with Dr Wendy Chapman, who was later severely reprimanded by the Medical Council.[8]

Current standings

Current squad

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Buchanan, RobRob Buchanan Hooker England England
Gray, JoeJoe Gray Hooker England England
Ward, DaveDave Ward Hooker England England
Collier, WillWill Collier Prop England England
Paul Doran-Jones Prop England England
Lambert, MarkMark Lambert Prop England England
Marfo, DarrylDarryl Marfo Prop England England
Marler, JoeJoe Marler Prop England England
Mayhew, NicNic Mayhew + Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Kennedy, NickNick Kennedy Lock England England
Matthews, CharlieCharlie Matthews Lock England England
Robson, GeorgeGeorge Robson Lock England England
Fa'asavalu, MaurieMaurie Fa'asavalu Flanker Samoa Samoa
Robshaw, ChrisChris Robshaw (c) Flanker England England
Trayfoot, JoeJoe Trayfoot Flanker England England
Wallace, LukeLuke Wallace Flanker England England
Easter, NickNick Easter Number 8 England England
Guest, TomTom Guest Number 8 England England
Player Position Union
Care, DannyDanny Care Scrum-half England England
Dickson, KarlKarl Dickson Scrum-half England England
Botica, BenBen Botica + Fly-half New Zealand New Zealand
Evans, NickNick Evans Fly-half New Zealand New Zealand
Casson, TomTom Casson Centre England England
Hopper, MattMatt Hopper Centre England England
Lowe, GeorgeGeorge Lowe Centre England England
Molenaar, TimTim Molenaar Centre New Zealand New Zealand
Turner-Hall, JordanJordan Turner-Hall Centre England England
Monye, UgoUgo Monye Wing England England
Sackey, PaulPaul Sackey Wing England England
Smith, SamSam Smith Wing England England
Williams, TomTom Williams Wing England England
Brown, MikeMike Brown Fullback England England
Chisholm, RossRoss Chisholm Fullback England England
Lindsay-Hague, OllieOllie Lindsay-Hague Fullback England England

+ Denotes player also holds a UK passport and is excluded from the foreign player limit applied under Premiership[10] and ERC[11] Regulations.

Current Academy squad

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.

Player Position Union
Harry Allen Hooker England England
Kyle Sinckler Prop England England
George Merrick Lock England England
Sam Twomey Lock England England
Jack Clifford Number 8 England England
Player Position Union
Sam Stuart Scrum-half England England
Henry Taylor Scrum-half England England
Louis Grimoldby [12] Fly-half England England
Harry Sloan Centre England England
Charlie Walker Centre England England
Miles Mantella Wing England England
Jordan Burns Wing England England

Coaching Staff

Role Name
Director of Rugby Ireland Conor O'Shea [13]
Head Coach England John Kingston [14]
First Team Coach England Tony Diprose [15]
Assistant First Team Coach England Mark Mapletoft [16]
Assistant First Team Coach Collin Osborne [17]
Head of Rugby Operations Graeme Bowerbank [18]
Head Training and Conditioning Coach John Dams [19]
Conditioning Coach Gareth Tong [20]
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Hall [21]
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Hanway [22]
Head Physiotherapist Richard Bamford [23]
First XV Physiotherapist Andy Reynolds [24]
Physiotherapist Ann-Marie Birmingham [25]
Chiropractor Andy Beckinsale [26]
Nutritionist Dan Kings [27]
Head of Performance Analysis Ed Spokes [28]
Sport Psychology Kate Hays [29]

Academy Coaching Staff

Role Name
Academy Manager England Tony Diprose [15]
Academy Head Coach England Howard Graham [30]
Assistant Academy Coach England Jim Evans [31]
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Hall [21]
Academy Physiotherapist Adam Roberts [32]
Academy Analyst Kevin Gill [33]
Academy Administrator Louise Ryan [34]
Head of Harlequins Sussex School of Rugby Richard Sigs [35]
Head of Harlequins Surrey School of Rugby Lorca O'Brien [36]
Head of Harlequins Inner London School of Rugby Tom Williams [37]

Transfers 2013–14

Players In

Players Out

Notable former players

Club honours

See also

  • Rugby union in London


External links

  • Harlequin Ladies team
  • Harlequin Amateurs Rugby Football Club
  • Quins' All Time Premiership Records (Statbunker)