Jacob Rowan says the opportunity to play at an ‘established’ Premiership club was the reason behind his decision to leave Leeds Carnegie, writes NICK WESTBY.
The 24-year-old captain, who hopes to end his association with the club by lifting the British and Irish Cup in Dublin tonight, moves to Gloucester after tonight’s season’s finale.
Like the rest of the squad he had hoped to be playing two more games in the Championship’s play-off final.
But that dream ended in a narrow, heart-breaking defeat to London Welsh on Sunday. Had he been able to complete the promotion dream, though, Rowan would still have made the move to Gloucester as he felt the time was right to further his career.
“The opportunity arose to have a shot at a higher level and I’ve taken it,” said the Keighley-born back-row forward.
“It was a tough decision. I’ve been at Leeds for 10 years, come through the academy, captained the first team, all of which has been an honour.
“Gloucester is a great team and an established club.
“As soon as they were interested I was keen to get it done and I’m really looking forward to getting cracking at the end of June.
“Obviously it’s massively tough to try and play down there, so I’ve got to work hard, that’s what’s paid off in my time at Leeds, so hopefully I’ll get some joy that way again.”
Rowan’s departure from a club he has served as boy and man is exactly what the rebranded Yorkshire Carnegie hope to prevent in the future.
The vision of Sir Ian McGeechan, the club hope to continue attracting the best talent the county has to offer, and then be the vehicle for them to play in the Premiership.
Rowan believes he has developed at such a pace, both physically and mentally, because of the players he has played alongside regularly.
He said: “You look at the competition for places in our team, especially the back row, and it’s huge up against the likes of David Sisi, Ryan Burrows, Chris Walker and so on – there’s so many outstanding players you need to be at the top of your game all the time to get that shirt.
“I’ve progressed by playing week in, week out in a strong position.”
Rowan was the youngest captain in the club’s history when he took over the armband in the middle of the 2011-12 season.
Two and a half years later, he has helped steer Leeds to two play-off semi-finals and now a Cup final against Leinster A at Donnybrook.
“I’ve loved it the last three years, it helped that there were so many leaders in the team that help you and it’s not just me on the pitch making the calls,” he said.
“We’ve learnt a lot as a team over the last three years.
“And I really thought it was our time this season, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Rowan is one of seven players making his final appearance in tonight’s Cup final at Donnybrook.
Stevie McColl will be joining him at Gloucester next season; Jonah Holmes and David Sisi will return to Wasps and Bath, respectively, after the game whilst Jonny Bentley, James Doherty and Calum Green also play their final games for the club before moving on in the summer.
While it is the end of an era for the players, tonight’s final brings the curtain down on the name of Leeds resonating in the world of rugby union, something it has done for 22 years and 635 games.