FRANCIS Cummins reckons Doncaster Knights could be high-flying Yorkshire Carnegie’s toughest assignment yet.
The derby rivals meet in their Championship tonight with leaders Carnegie having won four of their opening five games of the season so far.
But Doncaster – who narrowly avoided relegation last term – have shown promise too picking up three wins from their last four games.
Cummins, the former Leeds Rhinos winger and Bradford Bulls head coach, said: “It’s always tough playing in a derby.
“I know from my own career that both sets of players are always up for these matches and raise their games.
“When you look at Doncaster, they are probably one of the best outfits we’ve faced yet.
“They are very well coached, are very good at what they do and we know we need to be at our best.
“We’ve shown glimpses of that in every game so far – we’ve looked fantastic at times – but then we’ve lacked a little bit of control in the game as well.
“We’re happy to be where we are but we’re not quite doing what we want.”
Carnegie are hoping to give a better showing than their last home game, too, their solitary defeat so far the 30-27 reverse against London Scottish.
They responded with a 26-13 victory at Cornish Pirates on Sunday and Cummins – enjoying his role in Bryan Redpath’s coaching team since joining late last season – admitted: “That was pleasing to get that victory.
“We were happy with the win. It’s a hell of a trip – eight and a half hours on the bus and something I’m not used to! – but there was improvements.
“We know we let ourselves down against Scottish and it’s got to be better this week.
“I’m pleased we’re scoring more tries, though.
“I’m working on core skills and playing with the ball a bit more.
“We’re trying to encourage some open rugby and we are seeing that.
“I’m enjoying the coaching. For a while there (after leaving Bradford) I wasn’t doing any and I miss making that contribution. It’s a different sport to rugby league but there’s definitely things that cross over.”
Prop Rob O’Donnell has been cleared to return tonight after injury but Redpath has been forced to call in extra front-row cover after injuries to Ben Hooper and James Tideswell.
England Under-18s prop Charlie Capps is set for his dewhile Ben Black has joined Yorkshire from Sedgley Park after impressing Dean Schofield, who is head coach there as well as a player himself with Carnegie. Doncaster make changes, too, with Colin Quigley returning to the starting XV having sat out last weekend’s win over Ealing. The tighthead is accompanied by Richard List and Ted Stagg who makes his first Championship start for the Knights since signing from Plymouth this summer.
Lock Jon Phelan replaces Tyler Hotson while Alex Shaw is back on the bench,
Harrogate selector Mike Aspinall has told more than half his Harrogate squad to front up tomorrow at home to Huddersfield or risk losing their first-team shirts.
Harrogate crashed to a third defeat in a row in National Two North last weekend with a 26-20 defeat at third-placed Leicester Lions. Director of rugby Aspinall was critical of Harrogate’s execution in attack, and said a number of second-team players had “held their hands up” in a 46-16 victory over Ilkley at the weekend.
“My gut feeling is that the boys will have my faith for one more week to sort it out before my hand will be forced to give other people opportunities,” he said. “If the performance isn’t there, they don’t deserve to wear the shirt.”
Otley – level on points behind ninth-placed Harrogate in mid-table – are aiming to build on their 7-5 victory at Chester last weekend when they entertain fourth-bottom Sale tomorrow.
Fifth-placed Sandal, meanwhile, take on table-toppers Sedgley Park, probably still smarting after their four-match win-run was halted at Huddersfield.
In National One, Wharfedale are out to repair a two-match losing sequence at home to Darlington Mowden Park, who sit one place above them on the league ladder courtesy of a better points difference.
And North One East promotion chasers Morley will aim to continue their 100 per cent record at home to fifth-place Alnwick.
National 1: Wharfedale v Darlington Mowden Park.
National 2 North: Harrogate v Huddersfield, Otley v Sale, Sandal v Sedgley Park.
Northern Division Leagues - National 3 North:Hull v Cleckheaton, Ilkley v Stockport.
North 1 East: Morley v Alnwick.
Yorkshire 1: Bradford Salem v Malton and Norton, Bridlington v Hullensians, Heath v Old Crossleyans, Scarborough v Old Brodleians, Selby v North Ribblesdale, West Park Leeds v York, Yarnbury v Bradford & Bingley.
Yorkshire 2: Keighley v Leodiensian, Moortown v Barnsley, Pontefract v Old Rishworthians, Ripon v Knottingley, Roundhegians v Old Grovians, Sheffield Medicals v Wath Upon Dearne, West Leeds v Castleford.
Yorkshire 3: Baildon v Leeds Medics, Goole v Bramley Phoenix, Halifax v Thornensians, Harrogate Pythons v Aireborough, Rotherham Phoenix v Old Otliensians, Stocksbridge v Northallerton, Wetherby v Leeds Modernians.
Yorkshire 4: Burley v Sheffield Oaks, Leeds Corinthians v Hemsworth, Mosborough v Hessle, Ossett v York Railway Institute, Rotherham Clifton v Wensleydale, Skipton v Halifax Vandals.
Yorkshire 5: Garforth v Knaresborough, Hornsea v Stanley Rodillians, Rossington Hornets v Wibsey, Thirsk v Hallamshire.