YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE boss Bryan Redpath says his side still believe they can reach a second successive British & Irish Cup final despite an unenviable position in Pool Five.
They must win at Bedford Blues today for any hope of reaching the knockout stages but also then defeat unbeaten leaders Ealing Trailfinders in their final pool game, staged at Scarborough RUFC, next Saturday
Admittedly Championship high-fliers Carnegie, who lost last season’s final at London Welsh, comfortably defeated Bedford 52-28 when they played in the cup at Selby earlier in the season.
They also won their B&I Cup game ‘on the road’ at Pontefract, too, beating a Dragons Premiership Select side 20-17 but lost against the Welsh side 22-20 before Christmas and also fell 51-35 at Ealing in October.
Redpath – who earlier this week announced he would quit at the end of the season to take up a job in the financial sector – said: “We need to get back to winning to stand a chance of progressing.
“We lost our last B&I Cup game but we’ve had a week off and everyone’s come in looking fresh ahead of this.
“We’ve obviously played down at Bedford before and it’s always a difficult place to play.
“If the wind’s up, it’s the sort of ground where it can get very tricky and you have to take that into account.
“It’s not the easiest of spots to get going.
“But we’ve done some core skill work this week and worked on certain aspects of our defence, too.
“We’re expecting a physical battle and they’re well coached but we’re all looking forward to this one.”
Carnegie beat Welsh on New Year’s Day in their last outing, a win that strengthened their hold on second place in the Championship where they have lost just once all campaign.
Furthermore, they are bolstered by the return of some key players this afternoon, too, with Redpath naming a strong side.
England Sevens international Alex Gray is back from injury to play in the centre alongside England Under-20s player Max Wright while back-row Richard Mayhew will captain the side in the absence of Ryan Burrows.
New signing Sione Faletau is unavailable due to international clearance not arriving in time for this weekend. However, there is good news for Josh Bainbridge, the talented 20-year-old flanker who has endured plenty of bad luck with injuries but is set for his first Carnegie appearance of the campaign after being named on the bench.
Other changes see Stevie McColl recalled at full-back in place of Chris Elder while Andy Saull comes in at openside.
Sale are being investigated over a possible breach of concussion management protocol, the Rugby Football Union has announced.
A panel will meet to examine a 30th-minute incident in the Sharks’ 29-26 Aviva Premiership defeat at Harlequins last Saturday in which back row TJ Ioane appeared to be concussed but remained on the pitch and completed the match.
The investigation comes less than a month after Sale’s premiership rivals Northampton were the subject of a probe into the handling of Wales winger George North’s latest blow to the head.