Yorkshire Carnegie: Lowes key to Mercer taking the Carnegie job

Gary Mercer.
Gary Mercer.
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New Yorkshire Carnegie head coach Gary Mercer has revealed how a chat with former chief James Lowes helped convince him to take the position.

Former New Zealand rugby league international Mercer, 48, was confirmed as the first head coach of the Yorkshire Carnegie era yesterday on a two-year deal.

Mercer becomes the third head coach in four years at the club formerly known as Leeds Carnegie.

He may have a history steeped in rugby league, having played for Leeds twice, Bradford, Castleford and Warrington, but he has also spent the last 10 years coaching union in the Scottish youth set-up, and professionally with Glasgow Warriors.

Mercer has long been a follower of developments at Carnegie, and threw his hat into the ring 12 months ago when the job went to fellow league convert Lowes.

And he said on taking his first position as a head coach, that Lowes played a role in his accepting the position.

“I spoke to James Lowes about the squad and the environment at the club and he encouraged me to consider the job,” said Mercer of his former Leeds team-mate, who quit Carnegie nine weeks ago to take charge of ailing Super League club Bradford Bulls.

Mercer continued: “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.

“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.”

Mercer will not begin officially until September 1, giving him less than a week to prepare his new squad for their first Greene King IPA Championship appointment of the season at Cornish Pirates.

He will meet fans at a specially arranged forum at Headingley Carnegie on Wednesday night, after the squad’s final pre-season game of the season against Leeds Metropolitan University, to be played at Beckett’s Park.

Carnegie’s director of rugby Chris Gibson, who led the search for Lowes’ successor, 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 and then our attentions will firmly be set on Cornish Pirates and the opening game of the season.”

Yorkshire Carnegie chairman Sir Ian McGeechan says Mercer’s experience with the regional structure in Scotland gives him a start when it comes to broadening the club’s horizons throughout the county, which is one of the reasons behind the name change.

“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,” said McGeechan, the former British and Irish Lions head coach.

“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.”

Stevie McColl

Full-back McColl looking for a better showing this time around