Leeds Carnegie: Relaxation is name of the game for Leeds boss Lowes

James Lowes

James Lowes

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When attempting to illustrate the fine balance a coach must strike in preparing a squad for an occasion such as a play-off game, Leeds Carnegie chief James Lowes dug deep into his vault of memories.

“I remember a Grand Final at Bradford when we played Wigan; I think it was 2001,” he began.

“We turned up at Old Trafford in our tracksuits and we just crashed out on the pitch, some of the lads were actually playing cards we were that relaxed.

“Wigan turned up suited and booted, looking really smart –but you could tell there was a bit of tension and they were quite nervous. We went on to produce one of our best performances in a Grand Final.

“Now I don’t want our lads to go and lay on the Headingley pitch and start playing cards before tomorrow’s game, but I do think there’s something in that.

“If you can have that relaxed mentality, then I do think it helps.”

That is the type of mindset Lowes hopes to instill in his Carnegie players tomorrow as they welcome London Welsh for the first leg of their Greene King IPA Championship play-off semi-final at Headingley Carnegie.

It is the first of potentially five huge games over the next month that could result in a Cup triumph and, more importantly, a return to the Premiership after a three-year absence.

This crunch time comes after a run of just one defeat in 12 matches in both the Championship and British and Irish Cup, a sequence that sets up Lowes’ buoyant squad for a crack at double glory. And for the first-year coach, finding the right note between nervous energy and channelled anger is one he must find tomorrow.

As a note of caution to his players, he said: “I’ve been in some finals where the more relaxed you go into the game the better you perform.

“There can be a lot of nervous energy spent. When you start playing, if you’re more nervous and het up then you do feel pretty tired and it does have an affect.

“You want to approach any big game as just another game because of what’s at stake, so you try and get that balance where all the nervous, over-excitement is balanced out.”

And to help his players find that balance, he believes playing at home in the first leg will be of a benefit.

“I actually wanted the home leg first, if we’d have finished higher than Welsh we would have chosen to play the home leg first,” he said.

“I think playing at home, whatever the sport, there’s slightly more pressure on you and you find that teams when they’re away, relax a little more.

“I feel if we can get a good performance here, be strong at Headingley, then we’ll be slightly more relaxed for the away leg.

“If you can get ahead going to an opposition ground, and I felt this with Newcastle last year, all the pressure goes onto them.”

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