Match preview: Crociati Rugby v Leeds Carnegie

Leeds Carnegie will bid for back to back victories against Crociati Rugby but director of rugby Andy Kay admits it is Boxing Day's clash at Newcastle Falcons that matters most.

Carnegie finally hit form with a vengeance last Sunday when routing Italian visitors Crociati 55-6 at Headingley Carnegie in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

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Leeds will now look to back that success up with victory in tomorrow's away tie but the fact remains that Key's side sit bottom of the table in the competition that matters most - the Guinness Premiership.

Victory tomorrow would significantly boost Carnegie's chances of qualifying for the European competition's latter stages but Key would swap any achievements in the Amlin Challenge Cup for survival in England's top flight.

"We've never hidden from the fact that our survival and our position in the Premeisrhip is paramount," he said.

"We didn't get off to the start we needed so therefore we are coming towards the half way point of the season and our priority now is all about the Premiership.

"Where we are, last weekend's game and this weekend's game, are going to be and we hope will be when we've finished them, massive platforms for us to go into the Newcastle game on Boxing Day.

"It comes about that these two games are actually as important in that build up and if that puts us in a strong position by the time we come to Stade Francais and Bucharest in the middle of January then we'll review that when we get there.

"But all these games are very much about getting the side back into the right frame of mind, getting them back on track, making sure they are aware of what they are doing so we can take on Newcastle on Boxing Day.

"With us playing Newcastle who are sitting 11th in the Premiership at the moment, it becomes a very, very important game."

Carnegie will make four changes to last weekend's starting line-up tomorrow with Leigh Hinton starting the game at full-back and with Ceiron Thomas reverting to fly half in place of Lachlan MacKay. Phil Swainston also comes in for Juan Gomez whilst Mike MacDonald replaces Gareth Hardy who will begin the game on the bench.

It will be MacDonald's first start for Leeds Carnegie since the team's game against Llanelli Scarlets.

Gareth Denman, Luther Burrell and Semi Tadulala are the other three changes on the replacement bench, coming in for Miguel Alonso, Jesus Moreno Rodriguez and Peter Wackett.

And, while Key knows it is the Boxing Day clash at Falcons that is the real big one over the coming Festive period, the director of rugby feels a victory and strong performance tomorrow are crucial to the Boxing Day build-up.

"We're looking forward to that Newcastle game but we've got a game this weekend first of all to sort of continue on the growth of our performance last weekend.

"We want to get that right and we'll be looking for at a minimum what we did in the second half.

"It might not bring as many tries and it might not bring about the same sort of outcome because of where we are playing and they are playing at home but if we can bring the same performance we know that will be a winning performance.

"That will take us into the Newcastle game with great confidence."

Leeds Carnegie: Hinton, Blackett, Fa'afili, Barrow, Stephenson, Thomas, Fury, Macdonald, Thompson, Swainston, Denton, Wentzel, Oakley, Fourie, Browne. Replacements: Nilsen, Hardy, Denman, Paul, To'oala, Mathie, Burrell, Tadulala.

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