James Lowes believes the decision this week of four of their young stars to commit their futures to Leeds Carnegie underscores the direction the club is going in.
Chris Walker, Damien Tussac, Matt Smith and Mike Myerscough all agreed two-year deals to remain with a club that from next year will be known as Yorkshire Carnegie.
The reasons for each of the respective decisions was varied, but the one common denominator was that they all believe Carnegie have the potential to match their own ambitions to play in the Premiership.
“It’s important that we try and keep this young side together,” said Lowes, who has continued building a young squad capable of winning promotion from the Greene King IPA Championship.
“They’ve developed this last year, over the last couple of years really.
“The more they play the more experience they get, and it’s big for the club that we keep these sort of players and we’re delighted that they’ve agreed to continue playing their rugby here.”
One player who has not bought into the long-term vision is scrum-half Craig Hampson, who has already agreed to join tomorrow’s opponents Bristol for next season.
Despite both these ex-Premiership stalwarts being on a collision course for a route back into the top flight, Lowes has no qualms in fielding the spritely No 9 on the bench tomorrow – though he admits he may think twice when it comes to the play-offs in May.
“Craig has been in great form for us this season and I expect him to do exactly the same on Sunday,” said Lowes.
“The play-offs are still a long way off and we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
“I don’t see any reason not to involve him in this game.”
Lowes is happy to field Hampson tomorrow because he does not feel the outcome of the game will impact too greatly on the destination of the title, and promotion.
Leeds have already beaten Bristol once this season, defeating them at the Memorial Ground in the Championship. They have also shared a win and a defeat in the B&I Cup.
On each occasion there was never more than six points in the final analysis, which goes to illustrate just how little there is to choose between the two teams.
Regardless of that, Lowes does not believe a victory for Leeds will give them a psychological edge going into the play-offs.
“We’ll worry about the play-offs when we get to the play-offs, it’s about jostling for position now and that’s the end of the story.
“What happens in the league won’t have any bearing on the play-offs. It’s a knockout competition.
“We know Bristol well, they’re a very good attacking side, they’ve proven that throughout the year and they don’t let you off the hook.
“Whereas tradition says more often than not in a position to kick penalties a team will kick penalties, these challenge you.
“They try to score tries, so you’ve got to be really good without ball in hand and limit the time they spend with ball in hand.
“They’re a real threat but we enjoy the challenges of that and we enjoy playing Bristol.”
This is Leeds’ first taste of action for 15 days after scraping by lowly Jersey last time out.
Lowes took responsibility for that lacklustre effort for getting his players to travel to the Channel island on the day of the game.
“I got that wrong. There was a lot of fatigue in our performance,” he said, after waking his players at 5am to set out on the journey south.
“It was a big risk and we were fortunate to get away with that.
“We could take a lot from the guys never giving up but I won’t put the lads in that situation again.”
Bristol, who are chasing a ninth straight victory, have made seven changes while Leeds – who have won their last five – have made six.
Jonah Holmes starts at full-back while Harry Casson joins Myerscough in the second row.