We’ve got no excuses this time around says Redpath

Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield

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YORKSHIRE Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath knows there can be no excuses for lethargy as the club gets its latest bid for promotion back to the Premiership underway.

YORKSHIRE Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath knows there can be no excuses for lethargy as the club gets its latest bid for promotion back to the Premiership underway.

They host Jersey tomorrow and having twice featured in the Heineken Cup and won the Powergen Cup at Twickenham, the club are desperate to finally return to the top-flight after four years playing second-tier.

The last campaign never truly got going for a number of reasons.

Carnegie did not actually employ a replacement for head coach Jimmy Lowes until a fortnight before it got underway.

Even then, the appointed Gary Mercer barely lasted three months before departing in November after a poor run of results and morale at a worrying low.

Forwards coach Tommy McGee took over but he, too, was indifferent and released in early March, former Sale Sharks and Gloucester chief Redpath eventually restoring some order but still unable to prevent the club finishing any better than sixth, seven points adrift of the top-four.

The ex-Scotland scrum-half has had plenty of time since then, however, to cement his plans for 2015-16 and create calm ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Redpath admitted the unrest amid the coaching uncertainty “manifested” itself in the players last term.

“They didn’t start as well as they’d like and they got a little bit lost with that focus, looking at the changes in backroom staff as a reason for it,” he said.

“But there’s none of that this time around. We’ve actually added to the group and there’s no reason why we can’t get off to a good start.

“In fact, it is really important we do as nine of the first ten matches – it’s normally six – are in the Championship, which is rare, so we have to focus on getting a good start against Jersey tomorrow.”

Indeed, there is no prospect of easing their way in given there are no British & Irish Cup fixtures to break up the opening as normal; if Carnegie are to challenge for the semi-finals once more they have to get up and running quickly.

Redpath believes the appointment as captain of former England second-row Chris Jones, who won the Premiership while at Sale Sharks in 2006 where he was a former team-mate of his current coach, is critical in achieving that aim.

He replaces Ryan Burrows in the role and Redpath said: “Chris Jones joined last year and he runs our line-out and our defensive line-out so he’s a huge part of how we start and stop the opposition.

“He can have a massive direct influence on what we do or don’t do in defence and attack and has a lot of knowledge in that area. Around him we have Ryan Burrows and Chris Pilgrim, boys who are leaders, too, and named as vice-captains.”

Jersey finished just below Carnegie last season and Redpath knows where their most potent weapon lies.

“They have a very good line-out drive and we know they’ll come hard at us there,” he said.

“They scored three tries from line-out drives against Scarlets last week and last year in the Championship, Jersey were up there near the top when it came to that department so we can’t disrespect field position.”

Carnegie include a number of new signings tomorrow but, of course, their biggest recruit is former England rugby league captain Kevin Sinfield who will join once his Leeds Rhinos commitments finish in the coming weeks.

The 34-year-old hoisted the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup a week ago following a 50-0 annihilation of Hull KR.

“I was there at Wembley last weekend to see Kev achieve that and the Rhinos get their rewards again after so many heartaches over the years,” said Redpath. “It will be great to see Kev change over but we know he’s got a big couple of months ahead of him first. I know he’s itching at the bit to get some more information but he can come when he’s ready.”

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FOUR new signings will make their debut in the starting line-up for Yorkshire Carnegie in the Greene King IPA Championship opener against Jersey at Headingley tomorrow.

Head coach Bryan Redpath brings in former London Welsh winger Seb Stegmann into the backline whilst his former team-mate Dean Schofield, the 36-year-old ex-Wakefield and England lock, packs down with new captain Chris Jones in the second-row.

Prop Rob O’Donnell, who joined from Worcester during the summer, is named at tight head prop whilst the last debutant is former Newcastle Falcons back-rower Andy Saull.

Tom Ryder and Andy Forsyth could also make their debuts off the bench.

Though Jones played plenty last season with the club, tomorrow will bring a first for the experienced ex-Sale Sharks and England forward.

The 35 year-old has taken over from Ryan Burrows as skipper in 2015-16.

“I have never captained a side in my career so to do it for the first time in front of our own fans will be very special,” he admitted.

“I am really looking forward to Sunday’s game and leading the team out at Headingley Carnegie.”

Meanwhile, former Headingley skipper Gerry Wood has died aged 84 following a brief illness.

Born in Leeds, Wood – a passionate supporter of Pocklington RUFC – also captained Harrogate, represented Yorkshire and North of England, playing against the All Blacks in 1954.

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