After giving his players four days to switch off mentally last week, Diccon Edwards is confident that Leeds Carnegie will hit the ground running in their big Championship clash with second-placed Bedford Blues at Headingley Carnegie on Sunday (3pm).
Following their elimination from the British and Irish Cup, both Carnegie and Blues were able to put their feet up last weekend, with the downtime arriving at an opportune moment for the former, being able to take stock and mentally and physically refresh themselves following a surprise defeat at Plymouth Albion last time out.
After returning to training on Tuesday, revitalised Carnegie players have thrown themselves into action ahead of a massive test against Bedford, who they famously beat 45-28 at Goldington Road following an exhilarating attacking show earlier in the season.
And the focus has been on fixing up a few things ahead of the run-in, with just four games to go in the regular season before the real stuff begins in the play-offs.
Edwards said: “I’m confident of a reaction against Bedford. The break came at a good time for us and we used it to our advantage.
“it gave us a chance to analyse our last performance and make sure we rectify some areas in the next few weeks ahead of the play-offs.
“We had an opportunity to win the Plymouth game in the first half, but didn’t take our opportunities to execute them. That was a huge lesson to learn from, not just in terms of the Plymouth game.
“It’s also about making sure we show the desperation other teams show, like Plymouth and show that consistently in our remaining games.
“The contact area is going to be a big focus in the next few games and we don’t want to be found wanting. Getting some quick ball at the breakdown is key.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game, Edwards added: “Our performance at Bedford was our best of the season and we’ll need to replicate that because they are a quality and tough side.”
While Carnegie were busy ahead of yesterday’s transfer deadline, bringing in ex-Newcastle Falcons back rower Ed Williamson and Tongan international prop Halani Aulika for the rest of the season, Bedford were also active.
Director of rugby Mike Rayer signed flanker Darren Fox and tighthead prop Ben Cooper, both from Cambridge, to boost his squad ahead of the business end of the season.
Bedford are itching for revenge after their humbling against Leeds on home soil, with Rayer seeking to find out how far his side have come since, while acknowledging Carnegie’s quality.
He said: “We were disappointed with our performance against them earlier in the season.
“We were well in the game and it was an even contest until the last 10 minutes, so we’ve got to put that right.
“From our last game with them we learnt that you can’t fall asleep in the last 10 minutes and if you give anyone too much time and miss tackles, then teams will hurt you.”
Carnegie have made five changes to the side to face Bedford – two of them in the back line with Lee Blackett coming in for Michael Stephenson and scrum-half Will Cliff back in the frame after his short stint at Sale Sharks.
Skipper Andy Titterrell also returns following a spell at the Sharks and is joined in the front row by David Young while Richard Beck comes into the back row.
Carnegie squad: Bell, Blackett, Thornley, Barrow, Lucock, Ford, Cliff, Denman, Titterrell, Young, Denton, Hohneck, Burrows, Beck, Rowan, Freer, Lockwood, Mustafa, Pendlebury, Hemingway, Shaw, Barker.