Diccon Edwards has hailed his youngsters at Leeds Carnegie, who he insists are coming of age.
Carnegie take a break from league action with a home encounter against Scottish Premiership outfit Currie in the British and Irish Cup at Headingley tomorrow (3pm), with several of Edwards’ fledglings set to be given their head.
Ace in a youthful pack has been Tommy Bell, with the likes of Iain Thornley, Chris Walker, Joe Barker, Craig Hampson and Dominic Barrow also impressing, along with ex-Northampton Saints fly-half Joe Ford, whose drop goal helped Carnegie to topple Nottingham 22-19.
Ice-cool kicking king Bell has exuded composure to belie his years since his arrival from Sale on loan and head coach Edwards has been delighted with his input and that of his youthful colleagues.
He said: “Tommy’s played a significant role throughout the season so far. He arrived at the back end of pre-season and it took him three or four weeks to blood him into the squad before he was given his opportunity.
“But what we have seen is a real maturity and composure in pressure situations to kick winning penalties.
“Not just that, but to bring in a real spark and attacking threat to our game.
“We’re very pleased with his progress, as we are with a number of young players. They are really maturing this season.”
While young pivot Ford took the high fives with his late drop goal, which settled last Sunday’s tough contest with Nottingham, Edwards has added his chorus of approval to the impact made by his “old man”.
England coach Mike Ford, who has provided some new dimensions on the training paddock at Kirkstall over the past few weeks after he finished his World Cup duties with the Red Rose in New Zealand.
Edwards, who knows Ford from his days at the RFU, said: “Mike’s had a fantastic effect. He’s come in more in a mentoring role, just to try and support me in terms of giving me some feedback as a coach. We’re a young coaching group here.
“He’s added significantly to the group and the players are taking huge confidence from him as I am. We’re just lucky he’s able to have a working holiday, I guess and his presence has been hugely beneficial.”
Given that Carnegie’s mass of injuries are stacking up, the relative pressure-free environment of a cup encounter with Scottish part-timers Currie – with no league points at stake – is something of a welcome relief to Edwards, who admits he doesn’t know a great deal about tomorrow’s opponents.
And given that all Carnegie’s home league wins have been tense occasions decided by wafer-thin margins, Edwards is hoping that his side can free up and express themselves a little more tomorrow, while eyeing a convincing win nevertheless as they seek a sixth victory on the trot.
He added: “I don’t know a huge amount (about them).
“But it does give us an opportunity to focus on our game and work on the things we need to without having to over-analyse an opposition.
“sometimes you can over-focus on the opposition and forget your own strengths and weaknesses.”
Back row Ryan Burrows returns to the side as Edwards makes wholesale changes to his side as he gives squad members the chance to gain valuable game time.
The starting XV includes 10 players from the club’s academy with a further five graduates on the bench.
LEEDS CARNEGIE: Georgiou, Richards, Lucock, Barker, Tincknell, Ford, Hampson, Lockwood, Freer, Mustafa, Hemingway, Barrow, Burrows, Beck, Rieder, Nilsen, Denman, Young, Walker, Rowan, Shaw, Denton.