Yorkshire Carnegie appoint Gary Mercer as head coach

Gary Mercer in his days playing for Leeds Rhinos

Gary Mercer in his days playing for Leeds Rhinos

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Gary Mercer, the former New Zealand rugby league international, has been appointed the new head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie.

The 48-year-old, who played 21 times for the Kiwis, succeeds James Lowes, who quit the club nine weeks ago to take over at Bradford Bulls.

Mercer has signed a two-year contract at Headingley and has just two weeks to prepare the team for their first Greene King IPA Championship appointment of the season at Cornish Pirates.

Mercer, who will meet Yorkshire Carnegie fans for the first time next Wednesday night at a special pre-season fans event at Headingley Carnegie, said: “I am very excited about the future for Yorkshire Carnegie and what we can achieve over the next few years.

“The structure that has been put in place by Sir Ian McGeechan and Chris Gibson is something that I believe will create a sustainable and, importantly, a successful future for the club.

“I spoke to James Lowes about the squad and the environment at the club and he encouraged me to consider the job.

“From my time in Yorkshire as a player and a coach, I am aware of the raw pool of talent that is available and I think we are in a great position to capitalise on that now.

“The squad and the coaching team last season did a fantastic job and came so close to reaching their goal, our challenge now is to go even further next season.”

Mercer has worked for the last decade with the Scottish Rugby Union as well as being part of the coaching staff at professional club Glasgow Warriors.

During his playing career he played rugby league for Bradford, Warrington, Leeds and Halifax and began his coaching career in league with Halifax, Castleford and Oldham.

He switched to union in 2004 with Glasgow Warriors in an assistant coach’s role with responsibility for defence, attack and skills.

After the Warriors, he joined the Scottish Rugby Union where amongst other responsibilities he worked with Scotland’s A, U21 and U20 national sides, and as head coach of the under 16s.

Carnegie’s director of rugby Chris Gibson said: “We are delighted to have secured Gary on a two-year contract and this marks an exciting time for the club.

“Gary enjoyed an exceptional career in league but has been involved in rugby union for a long time now and will bring that experience to his role as head coach.

“Tommy McGee, Dave Baldwin and Colin Stephens have done a great job in pre-season and laid solid foundations for the new campaign. We have one more pre-season game against Leeds Metropolitan University next Wednesday afternoon and then our attentions will firmly be set on Cornish Pirates and the opening game of the season.”

Yorkshire Carnegie chairman Sir Ian McGeechan added: “Gary’s experience in elite level rugby is very impressive and during the interview process, his thoughts on the game and ideas about the future development of our squad was something that marked him out.

“He has helped develop young talent in Scotland and obviously knows the unique opportunities that exist here from his time at Leeds as a player.

“Having worked in the regional structure in Scotland, he also has an understanding of how important our project as Yorkshire Carnegie is for the future of the club and is fully supportive of it.”

Ollie Stedman

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