LEEDS Carnegie star Rob Vickerman admits some recent unpredicted results in the Championship have further heightened belief that they can achieve promotion.
Jimmy Lowes’ side head to Plymouth Albion tomorrow seeking a sixth successive win which could usurp leaders Bristol and bolstered by yesterday’s signing of Worcester Warriors lock Harry Casson on loan until the end of the season.
Long-time frontrunners London Welsh surprisingly slipped up at home to London Scottish just before Christmas and now only five points separate the top five of Bristol, Welsh, Rotherham Titans, Leeds and Scottish.
Unlike last year, when Newcastle Falcons eased to top spot and were only truly rattled when it came to the play-offs against Leeds, there seems no clear favourite and that offers Carnegie – and the rest – plenty of encouragement.
“I think it does,” admitted Vickerman, who made his ‘second’ debut in Saturday’s 30-19 win over Nottingham after rejoining following a two-and-a-half year stint with England Sevens.
“It’s one of those things where people will talk about taking it game by game and come out with all the clichés.
“But if you look at this division – and how it works – it is almost irrelevant until you get to the play-off stages.
“What you have to do is make sure you have continuity, have got confidence and you’re increasing your skill level – which is pretty abundant in this team – and then you reassess when it comes to February or March time.
“With Scottish winning that game at Welsh and Rotherham smashing (last season’s runners-up) Bedford on Boxing Day there’s been some surprises and it’s great to see these teams doing well. Traditionally the Championship has been slightly two-tiered but this year there is definitely no sub-standard.
“It’s a really competitive league.
“For me, it’s great to be back at Leeds and really exciting to be with this group of players, although slightly concerning that they have an average age of 23!”
Vickerman, 28, made his first Leeds debut in 2005, scoring 12 tries in 53 games and twice helping them earn promotion.
He featured with the club in the Premiership during 2005-06 and 2007-08 as well as playing five Heineken Cup games before joining Newcastle in 2009.
Then came his globe-trotting time with England Sevens playing in the likes of Las Vegas, New York, Tokyo, Dubai, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
He loved travelling the world but is now glad to be back at Headingley in the 15-man game and bolstering their promotion charge.
Vickerman came off the bench for the final 20 minutes as they defeated Nottingham but is promoted to the starting line-up as they make the long trip to Devon.
Casson, 22, is set to debut from the bench after signing following an injury to Calum Clark (pectoral).
Leeds are also without captain Jacob Rowan who was concussed last week.
Centre Jon Clarke, also on loan from Worcester, will make his first Leeds appearance from the bench.