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Harlequins: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

After a bitterly disappointing end to last season in the Gallagher Premiership and Challenge Cup, Harlequins are out to set the record straight after a summer of change at the Twickenham Stoop.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: 5th (W10 D0 L12 - Pts 56)

This season's target: Top four

Last season's top try scorer: Joe Marchant (12)

Odds to win the Premiership: 25/1

First five fixtures: Exeter (A), Bristol (H), Northampton (A), Worcester (H), Gloucester (A)

Transfers in: Martin Landajo (Jaguares), Santiago Garcia Botta (Jaguares), Michele Campagnaro (Wasps), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Stephan Lewies (Lions), Glen Young (Newcastle Falcons), Will Evans (Leicester Tigers), Simon Kerrod (Worcester Warriors), Tom Lawday (Exeter Chiefs), Toby Freeman (Cornish Pirates), Brett Heron (Jersey Reds), Luke Northmore (Cardiff Metropolitan University), Demetri Catrakilis (Southern Kings),Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons), Travis Ismaiel (Bulls), Tevita Cavubati (Newcastle Falcons)

Transfers out: George Merrick (Clermont), Alofa Alofa (Bayonne), Lewis Boyce (Bath), James Horwill (retiring), Stan South (Coventry), Josh Ibuanokpe (Saracens), Henry Cheeseman (released), Ben Glynn (released), Dave Lewis (released), Mat Luamanu (released), Josh McNulty (released), Phil Swainston (released), Charlie Walker (Zebre), Luke Wallace (released), Dave Ward (released), Calum Waters (released), Tim Visser (retiring), Demetri Catrakilis (released)

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Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Harlequins season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bath | Bristol Bears | Exeter Chiefs | GloucesterLondon Irish | Leicester TigersNorthampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks | Wasps | Worcester Warriors

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The story of last season

Despite a fifth-place finish in the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership, last season was a missed opportunity for Harlequins.

After losing three of their first four Premiership games, they rallied to beat Exeter in a thrilling match at Twickenham Stoop in late November.

The 28-26 victory – Exeter’s first defeat of the season – lifted Paul Gustard’s side to fourth in the table and felt like a turning point for the 2012 Premiership winners.

After Christmas they went on a five-match winning run, defeating Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, Worcester Warriors, Bristol Bears and Bath Rugby.

Quins looked a safe bet to claim fourth place but a late-season slump allowed a resurgent Northampton Saints back into the race.

In a dramatic meeting between the two contenders in April, Alex Mitchell ran in a late try to help Saints to a narrow victory at The Stoop.

The result saw Northampton jump two places into fifth in the Premiership table, a place behind Quins in fourth.

Quins were still in the race for fourth on the last day, but a 27-25 defeat to Wasps meant Harlequins failed to reach the play-offs for the fifth straight season.

Speaking after the game, Gustard said: “We are one win short of finishing in the top four and this is a team which almost got relegated last season.

“There is loads for us to work on, but I want to be a top-four team so I will look at things holistically and make sure we are a better team next year.”

Quins enjoyed a successful European campaign, reaching the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup before narrowly missing to eventual champions Clermont.

Tries from Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw, James Lang and Alex Dombrandt weren’t enough to overturn a 24 point deficit, but it was a valiant effort from the three-time tournament winners.

Hopes for this season

Gustard has overhauled his playing staff in the summer in a bid to secure a top-four finish in the 2019/20 season.

The marquee arrivals are Argentine scrum-half Martin Landajo and Italy centre Michele Campagnaro who join a raft of new faces including Scott Baldwin, Will Evans and Tom Lawday.

Among the players departing the club are the retiring James Horwill, Tim Visser and Dave Lewis.

The hugely experienced trio of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown as well as young stars Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant will be integral to Quins’ hopes again this season.

Gustard and co. will be searching for greater consistency in their quest to reach the Premiership semi-finals this season.

“We’re in a good place and a better place to last year, and technically we’re improving all the time, it’s a case of looking forward to regular rugby now,” he said.

“Recruitment is always a delicate business but we’re really happy with the squad we’ve assembled.

“We’ve a good group of hungry, motivated and people who are committed to Harlequins.

“The competition and depth is a lot greater than last season.”

Rugby World Cup absentees

Kyle Sinckler (England), Joe Marler (England), Michele Campagnaro (Italy), Paul Lasike (USA), Tevita Cavubati (Fiji), Semi Kunatani (Fiji), Vereniki Goneva (Fiji).

Key man: Joe Marchant

Marchant was Harlequins’ leading try-scorer in all competitions (14) and the runner-up in the overall Gallagher Premiership standings last season.

The 23-year-old centre’s most memorable score came in a 25-20 defeat to Saracens at The Stoop when he leapt spectacularly to catch and dot down a miscued Marcus Smith penalty.

He was left out of England’s 31-man World Cup squad but still featured as a replacement in warm-up matches against Wales and Ireland.

Quins coach Paul Gustard lauded Marchant after he was brought into the England camp.

“No doubt Joe had his best season last year, he was the best 13 in the competition.

“If you look at any statistic, he is the best 13. He is easily the best defensive 13 that played.

“Joe has all the things you look for in a rugby player. He is just a great guy who trains hard and is really professional.

“He is really integral to our success at Quins.”

Marchant will be full of confidence after his most prolific season to date and will be central to Quins’ hopes once again in the 2019/20 season.

One to watch: Alex Dombrandt

Last season’s Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the season Alex Dombrandt burst onto the scene for Harlequins in the 2018/19 season.

The 22-year-old back rower made 24 appearances in a stellar first season for the club after joining from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Dombrandt, who was also named in the BT Sport Team of the Year, was selected alongside Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant for England’s match against the Barbarians at Twickenham, where he scored two tries.

He was also named in England’s preliminary World Cup training squad, but he didn’t travel to Japan.

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

01/11/2019 - Northampton Saints v Harlequins

01/12/2019 - Harlequins v Gloucester Rugby

28/12/2019 - Harlequins v Leicester Tigers

03/01/2020 - Sale Sharks v Harlequins

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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