YORKSHIRE Carnegie boss Bryan Redpath has urged his promotion-chasing side not to give lowly derby rivals Rotherham Titans a sniff at Headingley or they could come unstuck.
In-form Carnegie are big favourites to push on and rack up their 12th win from 13 Championship games this term as they seek to maintain the pressure on leaders London Irish.
Rotherham have endured a difficult campaign and were grateful when financially-crippled London Welsh lost their place in the competition last month as it removed the threat of relegation.
However, Justin Burnell’s side picked up their first win in eight games last week when they nudged past Richmond 23-10 so spirits will be raised.
Redpath admitted: “They are a good set-piece side, their scrum is good and their drive, too, while they have got some big ball carriers.
“It’s like anything; you give them confidence to get their set-piece going and they will.
“It’s a massive game anyway just because it’s a derby let alone anything else.
“But we know our ball retention has to be huge and then when we have the ball we have got to make sure we look after it smartly.
“If we keep giving opportunities to teams with a good scrum then suddenly it’s three, six, nine, 12 points from penalties so we have to be aware of where we play the game.”
For all of their fine win record, Carnegie have been pushed close on numerous occasions this term, their latest victory being a 26-14 success at London Scottish.
Even unbeaten runaway leaders London Irish are feeling the heat having narrowly won 23-22 at Ealing last week.
Redpath continued: “We have to make sure our defence is better, which it has been of late.
“It has been conceding one or two tries, not many more, which is an improvement but we need to make sure we keep our focus on us, respect Rotherham and know that they are coming to put us down.”
Carnegie were disappointed at not claiming a bonus point last week having failed to score a fourth try despite leading 23-14 at the break. However, Redpath makes only one change to his starting line-up with winger Taylor Prell replacing the injured Seb Stegmann while Sione Faletau makes his home debut and dynamic back-row Ollie Stedman returns from injury on the bench.
Veteran lock Dean Schofield is fit again but must bide his time for a playing return.
Rotherham, meanwhile, have made three alterations.
Club captain Will Owen has recovered from injury and returns at outside centre, moving Callum Wilson onto the wing for Ben Foley, while Northampton Saints dual-registered winger Tom Collins comes in for Jake Henry.
Up front, lock Toby Salmon –who joins Premiership side Exeter Chiefs at the end of the season – drops out with injury so Miles Normandale gets the nod.
Hull Ionians fly-half Lee Millar is also kept on for a second week after proving influential on debut last Saturday.
Burnell admitted: “I was really happy with the result against Richmond.
“It was a win that we needed following a couple of defeats and in very tricky conditions I thought our defence and discipline was outstanding.
“On the back of that the boys have trained well this week, as players always do coming off the back of a win, and they are looking forward to the challenge of facing Carnegie.
“It’s a big local derby for us and there’ll be lots to play for. Carnegie are a class act with a massive depth of talent and there’s no doubt we’ll need to be at our best on Sunday.”