THE return of England stars Steve Thompson and Hendrie Fourie has given Leeds Carnegie’s beleagured players a major lift, according to team boss Neil Back.
Both internationals were in the stands last week to watch the sorry, and unexpected, 22-5 capitulation to Aviva Premiershiop relegation rivals Newcastle but they will get the chance to influence the result against London Irish tomorrow (KO 3pm) from the pitch.
Head coach Back said: “We were pleased to have Steve and Hendre back this week for the full week from the England camp.
“It was great to see both guys at Headingley Carnegie last Sunday supporting their team-mates, despite the euphoria of beating France the previous day at Twickenham.
“They have come back in with an upbeat attitude after their experiences with the national team and that has certainly given us a lift in training.
“We are still without a number of key players through injury, which is unfortunate at this stage of the season, however we have confidence in the 23 players who will take to the field to get the job done.”
And Back knows that the Exiles, fresh from a morale-boosting top-flight victory over Harlequins last weekend, will prove tough nuts to crack.
“They are a side who have also suffered from indifferent form until recently, but they will come here on a high having beaten Quins last week,” added Back.
“They have a very talented squad and were unlucky last season to miss out on a place in the play offs.
“We know that we face another tough challenge and we must make sure we are ready for that.”
With just eight games remaining, and Carnegie seven points adrift of safety, time is running out for Back’s men.
The agonising truth was that, against Newcastle, Leeds were the architects of their own downfall, squandering the lion’s share of possession and gifting the oppisition far too much turnover ball .
The emphasis in training this week has been on ironing out those deficiencies and the proof of the pudding will come against Toby Booth’s side, who fell victim to a 23-13 Carnegie uprising in the same fixture last spring.
A similar result may well be required tomorrow against an Exiles side back in form with two wins out of three after their February 12 victory against Newcastle ended a winless Premiership streak stretching back to October.
But former England World Cup winner says the anguish felt in the home changing room after the Falcons malaise could have a galvanising effect.
“Having reviewed the game at the start of the week, the players were bitterly disappointed with the performance and felt that they had let themselves and their team- mates down.
“We had trained well all week and the mood was good in the camp in the build up to the game, there was certainly no sign of the problems we’d suffer during it.
“Newcastle took their chances and secured the win but we have to learn those lessons and move on.”