Jacob Rowan has challenged Leeds Carnegie’s young bucks to force their way into the club’s promotion challenge as attention switches to the British and Irish Cup over the next fortnight.
Head coach James Lowes has named a side primarily made up of academy players for tomorrow’s trip to Wales to face Aberavon in round three of the cup competition.
Club captain Rowan is one of those senior men left at home to rest his body after a heavy stretch of Greene King IPA Championship fixtures which culminated in last week’s marvellous win over Bristol.
And with Leeds now in the top four and determined to go all the way in the race for promotion, Rowan has thrown down the gauntlet to the hot prospects heading to Wales tomorrow to make the coaches stand up and take note.
“We need those guys to go down there and maintain this winning momentum,” said Rowan, 23.
“What’s great for us is there’s so many great players in this team that those who play tomorrow have a real chance to press their case and push each other forward.
“We have every confidence in those guys to go down there and win the game.
“The message to the guys is to take this opportunity.
“Our squad is full of first-team players so these guys aren’t that far off the first team anyway.
“Jon Pendlebury, the academy coach, has done well preparing them for this chance and getting them to this stage, and we know they’re ready.
“Having come through the ranks myself, I know as well as anyone that if you’re good enough it doesn’t matter how old you, and this is the time to prove that.”
While offering the youngsters a chance, the return of the B&I Cup in which Leeds have won one and lost one, gives senior men the chance to ease up – not that Rowan wants his absence from the team to be a prolongued one.
“The British and Irish Cup is an opportunity to give a few players a bit of a rest, people like Calum Green etc,” said the versatile back-row forward.
“I’d like to be back involved next week but with promotion being the goal the squad has to be managed.
“As a player you want to be involved every week, so hopefully I can get back next week for the return with Aberavon.”
Carnegie’s five-point return from the Memorial Ground last week moved them up into a four-way tie for second place in the Championship and cast a much better light on the second set of five fixtures after the first B&I Cup fortnight.
Leeds lost twice in that period, before finishing on a high.
“It was a fantastic performance, some of the defence we showed was outstanding,” reflected Rowan.
“Bristol have a fantastic squad, a great coaching staff and it’s always an intimidating place to go, so to go down there and hold our own was a terrific effort.
“We know we can match anyone in the top four.
“Don’t forget we were 12 points up on London Welsh deep into the second half. Yes we lost but we have to take the confidence out of that game.
“Admittedly we were woeful against London Scottish the following week, and that game and the defeat to Nottingham are the ones we would like to get back.
“We’re in that top four now and it’s all about how do we stay there.”