Yorkshire Carnegie: Graham hooked on first-team opportunities as Sinfield gears up for first start

Kevin Sinfield
Kevin Sinfield
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HOOKER Joe Graham is determined to press his case when Yorkshire Carnegie face Munster ‘A’ in the British and Irish Cup at Kinsale tonight (8pm).

Graham has made just one appearance off the bench in the Championship this season, but started last week’s win over Ospreys Select in the B & I and has retained his place for this evening.

“It’s a good chance,” he said of Carnegie’s break from league action.

“Competition is that strong in the squad, people getting game time now have to play well and establish themselves in the team and push to keep their shirt when we get back into the Championship.

“The priority is to get promotion and to win the league, but the B & I is important in our development. As a squad we want to get better every week and that includes when we’re in the B&I Cup. The lads getting a chance now have to show what they can offer to the team.”

Carnegie are looking to build on last week’s success.

“I enjoyed it,” Graham said of the 32-10 victory.

“It was good to get a game and a win, though I was a bit sore afterwards!

“The lads played well. We all know we’ve got to play well to keep the shirt, so it keeps pushing standards up.”

With Carnegie not operating a second team, Graham has had to be patient this term.

He admitted: “It is frustrating, because everyone wants to play.

“You want to play week in and week out and start and be involved, but it is part of the sport and part of the job.

“It doesn’t benefit the team if you sulk and it doesn’t do you any favours.

“You have got to keep training hard and push yourself and when you chance comes, take it.”

Competition for the hooking role is particularly strong. Graham added: “Jack (Walker) and Phil (Nilsen) have been playing well. That’s good and the competition brings the best out of all three of us.”

Tonight’s game is chance for Carnegie’s players to spend some time together and test themselves against different opposition.

“It should be good,” Graham said. “It’s a bit more exciting, with the travel and everything and they will be a good side. We don’t know what sort of team they are going to put out, so it is more important we focus on our own jobs, which is good – and hopefully if we do well we might get chance to have a Guiness afterwards!”

Former Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield is set to make his first Carnegie start tonight, after coming off the bench last week.

He takes over from Joel Hodgson at fly-half. In other changes, wing Dan Tai comes in for Jonah Holmes, with Taylor Prell reverting to full-back, Jack Barnard takes over at flanker from Josh Bainbridge and Charlie Capps replaces Chris Beech at loose-head prop.

Chris Walker returns on the bench, following a cheek injury. Scotland under-20 prop Callum Sheldon is poised to make his debut as a replacement after impressing for Leeds Beckett University and academy products Dan Preston-Routledge, Sam Allan and Max Green are also among the substitutes.

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Harrogate coach Mike Aspinall predicts smiles all round if the side can maintain its promising recent run in National 2 North, starting at Caldy tomorrow.

“We’ll be looking at the table with a big smile on our faces very soon,” he said. “We’re definitely looking up rather than down the table.”

Otley and Sandal are also on their travels in the same division, as are Ilkley (at Rossendale) in National 3 North.

Tomorrow’s local fixtures

National 1: Wharfedale v Hartpury College.

National 2 North: Caldy v Harrogate, Preston Grasshoppers v Sandal, Sale v Huddersfield, South Leicester v Otley.

Northern Division Leagues – National 3 North: Birkenhead Park v Sheffield, Huddersfield YMCA v Hull, Rossendale v Ilkley, Sheffield Tigers v Burnage, Wirral v Cleckheaton.

North 1 East: Dinnington v Morpeth, Doncaster Phoenix v Beverley, Driffield v Guisborough, Northern v Morley, Pocklington v West Hartlepool, Wheatley Hills v Percy Park.

Yorkshire 1: Bradford Salem v Bridlington, Malton and Norton v Yarnbury, North Ribblesdale v Scarborough, Old Brodleians v Heath, Old Crossleyans v Bradford & Bingley, Selby v West Park Leeds, York v Hullensians.

Yorkshire 2: Barnsley v West Leeds, Castleford v Leodiensian, Old Grovians v Moortown, Old Rishworthians v Keighley, Pontefract v Ripon, Roundhegians v Sheffield Medicals, Wath Upon Dearne v Knottingley.

Yorkshire 3: Aireborough v Halifax, Bramley Phoenix v Stocksbridge, Goole v Baildon, Harrogate Pythons v Rotherham Phoenix, Leeds Modernians v Northallerton, Old Otliensians v Leeds Medics, Thornensians v Wetherby.

Yorkshire 4: Burley v Mosborough, Halifax Vandals v Hessle, Hemsworth v Skipton, Rotherham Clifton v Ossett, Sheffield Oaks v York Railway Institute, Wensleydale v Leeds Corinthians.

Yorkshire 5: Hallamshire v Rossington Hornets, Stanley Rodillians v Knaresborough, Thirsk v Hornsea, Wibsey v Garforth.

Sir Ian McGeechan was taken unwell in New Zealand.

Yorkshire's Sir Ian McGeechan taken to hospital in New Zealand