Diccon Edwards has thrown down the gauntlet to his Leeds Carnegie squad players – and has urged them to nail down a play-off starting spot with some sterling performances this week.
Carnegie, seeking to get back in Edwards’ good books in today’s rearranged clash at Nottingham, have a busy week which culminates in Saturday’s final regular Championship game of the season at play-off rivals London Welsh.
With an arduous schedule of three games in six days, it’s not rocket science to deduce that the Carnegie head coach has taken the opportunity to rotate his side with fringe players given the opportunity to impress ahead of the business end of the season.
A stony-faced Edwards was critical of his players’ discipline and decision-making following Sunday’s desperately disappointing home loss to Esher on Sunday and insists that places are still up for grabs for those wishing to firmly gatecrash their way into his starting plans.
To that effect, the games against Nottingham and Welsh will represent unofficial ‘trial’ runs for some with Edwards seeking some recompense and a strong reaction from his troops after last weekend’s poor showing.
Edwards said: “Some players have an opportunity to step up and show they want to be in the starting team for the play-offs.
“It’s a great chance to show they deserve their spot in the team for the play-offs and I am sure we will see a strong performance from them. We have a squad and we need to manage our players carefully.
“What we need and endeavour to create is an environment where we are pushing each other to get the best out of each other.
”I was bitterly disappointed (on Sunday). We lost because of our discipline and didn’t pay much attention to detail.
“At times, it was almost too easy (for Esher), which sounds condescending, but it isn’t meant to be.
“If we play like we train, we look a decent side. But it was a lack of personal discipline which killed us.
“I said it would be our most difficult home game because all the expectation would be on us and it proved to be the case.
“The key now is that we don’t lose confidence. There’s opportunities to get things right and areas we obviously have to improve on. We haven’t become a Championship winning team or a poor team overnight.
“We will take our medicine after Esher and move forward. We know where we need to be; we aren’t there yet, but not many teams are.”
Carnegie are without the services of Sean Hohneck this week, with the Kiwi lock having picked up a knee injury, while hooker Scott Freer is also in the treatment room after having a minor clear-up knee operation which will keep him out of action for three weeks.
The talented trio of Dominic Barrow, Chris Walker and Tommy Bell are on England Under-20s duty this week, with Mike MacDonald, Lachlan Mackay, Danny Paul and Stevie McColl also still missing.
While Edwards was largely non-plussed with the loss to rock-bottom Esher last time out, he did single out some praise in the direction of newcomer Halani Aulika, with the powerhouse Tongan international prop making an encouraging debut against the men from Surrey.
And Edwards feels there is more to come from the South Sea Islander, once his match sharpness improves.
He added: “Halani was better for the game, although he was blowing a bit.
“You can have as much training as you can, but it doesn’t quite prepare you for a match. But he will have benefited (from Sunday).
“As a tighthead (prop), he gave us a more solid look and as he gets more games and gets up to speed, he’ll only get better.
“I was pleased with his input.”
Carnegie’s weekend opponents Welsh were also in action today against Doncaster Knights at Old Deer Park.