Leeds Carnegie: Key confident of beating weather and Crociati

Andy Key is confident Leeds Carnegie's Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Italian minnows Crociati Rugby on Sunday will survive the big freeze – with the club desperate to finally end their wretched home hoodoo.

Despite the Headingley surface being in good condition ahead of last weekend's Aviva Premiership clash with leaders Northampton Saints, Carnegie were left kicking their heels after the fixture fell victim to the elements due to safety reasons with the surroundings to the stadium deemed too dangerous for spectators.

The weather situation is improving and is set to continue to do so with slightly higher temperatures forecast over the weekend, with director of rugby Key expecting no problems, as long as the snow relents.

He said: "Part of the problem last weekend was more relative about the surroundings around the stadium. So hopefully and if there's no more snow, we should be fine.

"We really struggled at the weekend, but because we have had no further snow, the guys have been doing an incredible job and are on the pitch and slowly, but surely, the snow is being removed from the covers.

"The covers have been on right from day one, even before all the snow came and we know the pitch underneath is good and there's nothing wrong with it."

Carnegie are seeking to end an X-rated six-game losing streak on home soil, with the memories of their last Headingley success – their Survival Sunday victory over Worcester Warriors in late April becoming an increasingly distant memory.

The arrival of Italian Super 10 outfit Crociati – formed in June following the merger of Overmach Parma and Noceto Rugby – represents the perfect opportunity to get the winless monkey off their backs at LS6, while gaining some much-needed confidence and momentum ahead of their resumption of Premiership business at Newcastle Falcons on Boxing Day.

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While the European competition is pretty much a side dish to the main course of what is now a top-flight survival mission for Carnegie, Key knows full well the importance of back-to-back clashes with Crociati, with the return clash in Italy taking place on Sunday week.

Given Carnegie's lamentable stats in 2010-11, which have yielded just one win in 13 competitive games and 12 losses, the merit of two victories in terms of reinvigorating confidence levels cannot be underestimated, regardless of the nature of the opponents.

Last season, a win double over Bucharest put Carnegie in perfect heart for their famous festive win at Newcastle and a repeat would be just the trick for Key, who has confirmed Carnegie will field strong line-ups for both parts of their Italian job.

He said: "We recognise where we are. Perhaps under normal circumstances with the Premiership, we'd be resting a few players or giving other players opportunities.

"But we're very mindful that we need to approach these next two games.

"It's three games really because we see the A League game with Leicester on Monday night as an integral part of things for the squad to get on the right foot and perform well, knowing we can come out of that game and the two European ones into the Newcastle one in a good mental state and frame of mind, knowing we've put some good performances together.

"Our clear objective is three wins from these three games."

Meanwhile, Key says no decision has been made on the rescheduled date for the home clash with Saints yet, with the date likely to rest on the success of both sides in cup competition.

Key added: "It's a bit early days. We have to wait for PRL (Premier Rugby Ltd) to identify when perhaps the next free weekend is.

"Our slight dilemma is the likes of Northampton, where they are, are likely to be in all competitions.

"But last year, we had such severe weather that the Heineken Cup or

European (Challenge) Cup allowed a couple of games from the Premiership to be played on those weekends.

"You can't do that on their weekends under normal circumstances because of the sponsors and things."

Kyle Bartley. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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