PHIL NILSEN says Leeds Carnegie are eyeing up British & Irish Cup glory.
The club’s longest-serving player knows they will qualify for the competition’s quarter-finals if they beat Bristol at Headingley tomorrow.
Although the tournament has come in for criticism in the past and is not high on the agenda of some, Leeds find themselves not far away from potentially lifting silverware.
Admittedly, promotion from the Championship is their key aim but hooker Nilsen sees no reason why they cannot challenge on both fronts.
“People have different perceptions of the B&I Cup but we’re in a good position and are looking to do well,” he said, Carnegie knowing even just two points will see them reach the last eight for the first time,
“If we win at the weekend we’re through to the next stage and it’s a competition we want to win. We’re looking forward to a good game.
“All our focus is on playing well and winning as many games as possible whether that be B&I Cup or Championship.
“Winning’s a habit. We won down at Plymouth a couple of weeks ago without playing great but we won. It builds confidence knowing that we know how to win these games.
“We’re at home against Bristol, who are our close rivals in the league too, and we’re out to get the job done.”
Leeds are third in the Championship, just three points adrift of leaders London Welsh and ahead of fourth-placed Bristol courtesy of a superior points difference.
The visitors are already guaranteed one of the two best B&I Cup runners-up spots and, so, their place in the last eight.
But, they will be keen for the victory that will cement first spot and secure a home draw.
Honours are even between the sides so far this season.
Bristol defeated a young Leeds side 21-17 following a late try in October’s reverse B&I Cup fixture but Carnegie did win down there in the Championship taking a 28-22 success in December.
“It was a tough old game that,” recalled Nilsen.
“I remember we went to Bristol last year, didn’t play well and got beat so it was good to be on the right side last month.
“We worked hard, took our chances when they came but were still disappointed at the end when we conceded a late try that gifted Bristol a bonus point.
“We’ll take some of that hurt into this game.”
Meanwhile, Carnegie have trained with sister club Leeds Rhinos this week as part of their build-up.
“It was good,” said Nilsen. “I’ve done a few of them before over the years and it’s always good to get involved with the Rhinos, for everyone to have a chat and get the chance to play with them.
“It’s a good little ice-breaker especially with us having quite a young squad; it can be quite intimidating for them walking around seeing some of the senior guys in their squad.
“But they are all good lads at the Rhinos and I know plenty of them.
“We did a little bit of rugby league with some of their skills and defence but did some rucking and mauling too.
“Jamie Peacock’s face when Tommy McGee told him to take the ball in and set up a ruck was a picture!
“They all got involved though and it was good fun.
“I’ve never really played league as when I grew up in Manchester it was all union.
“I don’t think I could cope with getting back 10 metres each time. Give me a scrum or a maul over that any day!”