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Paul Gustard's Roadmap

Paul Gustard’s Premiership Roadmap 2018-19

Here we go again. After a woeful season last time out, where the high spots were undermined by a late season collapse that left us mathematically in danger of relegation with three games to go, we have some significant changes at Quins.

John Kingston and Graham Rowntree have left the club, and the Director of Rugby role has been split into a coaching-focused Head of Rugby role and a General Manager. The rationale, I was told by David Morgan at the ever excellent Quinssa Pre-season Dinner, is to allow the DoR to be totally focused on getting the best possible team on the pitch week-in, week-out.

In have come Paul Gustard as Head of Rugby, Billy Millard as General Manager and Alex Codling as Forwards Coach. Adam Jones has stepped up to Assistant Forwards Coach, and Mark Mapletoft, Nick Easter, Nick Evans and Collin Osborne remain in role.

The word from pre-season is positive; players who were injured last year are now fit, and the atmosphere in training has apparently been a big step up. But then the word from pre-season is always positive. What is certain is that every year the league gets more and more challenging.

What will it take for Quins to do better this year? The answer lies in the Premiership Roadmap. Paul Gustard will have something very like this securely on his laptop, and will use it to plan his focus over the season.

How to use the roadmap

As fans, we would love Quins to win every game but coaches know that’s not a realistic goal. The newly-rebranded Gallagher Premiership is too competitive for that, and the wrong injury at the wrong time can wreak havoc with a team’s rhythm and structure. So coaches break the season into blocks, and in each block will have certain games they target. Over the course of the season, they’ll adjust their targets for each block depending on how well or badly the season is going.

The value of the roadmap for us fans is to put individual games in perspective. We may be fuming at a game where we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but if all we needed from that game was a point, it feels less disappointing. We can also use it to see how we are trending across the course of the season - recognising that not every team has their hard games at the same time.

How we calculate the roadmap

At a game by game level, the general aim is to win as many home games as possible, away games against the weaker sides, and try to get bonus points when you do lose. Try bonuses are usually just that, bonuses; if you’re doing well, you might hope to pick a couple up at home against the relegation contenders, but not more than that. Add that up, and the aim is to gather enough points over the course of the season to top the table, or failing that make top 4. If you can’t do that, getting top 6 and Champions Cup rugby next season is the aim. And if even that is beyond you, better make sure you finish in 11th.

The number of points needed for each of those slots has been fairly consistent over the seasons. The way I like to do it is to look at the average number of points needed for secure the position below the one you want, and then add one standard deviation (a measure of how much that average varies from season to season) and round up. That gives you a total that will secure the position you want about 90% of the time. The exception is avoiding relegation, where I like to build in a safety margin, so I look at what it would take to secure 11th and add a standard deviation to that. That conveniently ends up with a target that’s 1 point above the highest ever points total for a relegated team – the 38 points garnered by Quins in 2004-05.

Here’s a table showing how the points needed for a position have changed over time:

Year Relegated 11th 7th 5th 2nd
2017-18 22 36 56 63 77
2016-17 20 33 52 59 84
2015-16 20 27 55 60 74
2014-15 1 34 54 68 75
2013-14 16 22 49 67 78
2012-13 23 33 53 60 74
2011-12 32 33 46 59 74
2010-11 23 23 52 62 76
2009-10 28 32 48 57 71
2008-09 17 34 53 61 66
2007-08 12 34 59 63 70
2006-07 33 34 51 61 71
2005-06 27 41 45 56 66
2004-05 38 40 47 57 73
2003-04 3 37 53 55 73
2002-03 34 36 42 56 62
Average 21.8 33.1 50.9 60.3 72.8
Std Dev 10.2 5.1 4.3 3.6 5.1
Target 32 39 56 64 78
17-18 33 39 55 64 78

Interestingly, the predicted points targets for this year are exactly what was needed last year.

The 2018-19 Roadmap

So, what should we be looking for this year? Here’s my attempt. I’ve focused on wins and LBPs, beginning with a scenario in which we win just half our home games and sneak away wins at Bristol and Worcester, and building up to one in which we lose away at Exeter, Wasps, Sarries and Newcastle, and at home to Sarries, but win the rest of our games.

 

Round Date Home team Away team Points / End of season total 11th 39 6th 56 4th 64 1st 78
1 01/09/2018 Harlequins Sale Sharks Premiership 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
2 08/09/2018 Northampton Saints Harlequins Premiership 0 4 1 5 1 5 4 8
3 15/09/2018 Harlequins Bath Rugby Premiership 4 8 4 9 4 9 4 12
4 22/09/2018 Bristol Bears Harlequins Premiership 4 12 5 14 5 14 5 17
5 29/09/2018 Gloucester Rugby Harlequins Premiership 1 13 4 18 4 18 4 21
6 06/10/2017 Harlequins Saracens Premiership 0 13 0 18 1 19 1 22
  Euro & Autumn Internationals                      
7 16/11/2018 Harlequins Newcastle Falcons Premiership 1 14 4 22 4 23 5 27
8 24/11/2018 Worcester Warriors Harlequins Premiership 4 18 4 26 4 27 4 31
9 30/11/2018 Harlequins Exeter Chiefs Premiership 0 18 1 27 1 28 4 35
  Euro                      
10 22/12/2018 Leicester Tigers Harlequins Premiership 1 19 1 28 4 32 4 39
11 29/12/2018 Harlequins Wasps Premiership 1 20 1 29 4 36 4 43
12 05/01/2019 Newcastle Falcons Harlequins Premiership 0 20 1 30 1 37 1 44
  Euro & 6N                      
13 16/02/2019 Harlequins Worcester Warriors Premiership 4 24 5 35 5 42 5 49
14 23/02/2019 Harlequins Bristol Bears Premiership 4 28 5 40 5 47 5 54
15 02/03/2019 Bath Rugby Harlequins Premiership 1 29 1 41 1 48 4 58
16 09/03/2019 Harlequins Gloucester Rugby Premiership 4 33 5 46 4 52 5 63
17 23/03/2019 Saracens Harlequins Premiership 0 33 0 46 1 53 1 64
  Euro                      
18 06/04/2019 Sale Sharks Harlequins Premiership 1 34 1 47 1 54 4 68
19 13/04/2019 Harlequins Northampton Saints Premiership 1 35 4 51 4 58 4 72
20 27/04/2019 Exeter Chiefs Harlequins Premiership 0 35 0 51 1 59 1 73
21 03/05/2019 Harlequins Leicester Tigers Premiership 4 39 4 55 4 63 4 77
22 18/05/2019 Wasps Harlequins Premiership 0 39 1 56 1 64 1 78

It’s a long season, I think because there are some more rest periods worked in. As you can see, there are two critical blocks for us: the first 6 games, and the 5 game block covering February and March.

We need Mr Gustard to galvanise the team in short order and come out all guns blazing - which should be possible if we come out with all our players fit and our internationals in form. But we will also need the likes of Horwill, Bothma, Catrakilis and Saili, hired to give us a strong spine when our internationals are away, to ensure that we get what we need from the cold and dark of February, which has not traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Quins.

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