Yorkshire Carnegie: Hooker Nilsen’s proud to bring up his double century

Phil Nilsen.

HOOKER Phil Nilsen will today become only the third player in the history of Yorkshire Carnegie – and its many incarnations – to reach 200 appearances for the club.

The 31-year-old is named in the side for the trip to London Scottish as Carnegie return to Championship action following a fortnight in the British & Irish Cup.

Having debuted in 2006, Nilsen stands on 199 games with only club legend Mike Shelley – the prop who lifted the Powergen Cup for Leeds Tykes at Twickenham the year previously – above him on a record 244 appearances and fellow hooker Rob Rawlinson who pulled on the jersey 209 times.

Nilsen, who joined Leeds at the age of just 17, could surpass the latter’s total later this season but first he is looking forward to this significant milestone.

Asked about his debut, he recalled: “It was Cornish Pirates at home and although I was named as replacement hooker I came on as a back-row and it was under Stuart Lancaster.

“I’ve been aware this has been coming up as my old man keeps an eye on it and looks on the website.

“I’ve been here a long time now, since I was 17 and I’m nearly 32 now.

“But I’m looking forward to Scottish, my 200th appearance and hopefully getting us another five points.”

Second-placed Carnegie hope to do that to keep in touch with leaders London Irish who they will also play in the B&I Cup quarter-finals at Madejski Stadium in March.

A product of the club’s famous academy, Manchester-born Nilsen has played 11 games this term, starting seven and scoring one try.

On the matches that stand out during his 11-year first-team career, he replied: “There’s a few.

“Your first game for the club always sticks out but others also for the right and wrong reasons.

“I remember being away at Otley and we got a phone call saying we’d won promotion.

“There was the home game v Worcester when we avoided relegation but also the match at Northampton when we lost by a point (and went down) knowing we could have stayed up.

“I’ve been lucky during my career; some people get unfortunate injuries but I’ve been really lucky not to get too many bad ones.

“So that’s helped getting to this number of games.”

On Carnegie’s promotion hopes, he added: “We’re going well at the moment but I try not to look at the table.

“I prefer to look more at our performances and we’ve just got to concentrate on getting them right.

“We’ve only lost one of our 12 Championship games this season and we need to keep that record up.”

Head coach Bryan Redpath has made 12 changes to the side that defeated Ealing Trailfinders last Saturday.

Chris Elder returns at full-back while Jonah Holmes, Pete Lucock, Joe Ford and Alex Davies all return to the back line.

In the forwards, Sione Faletau will start at tight head, Matt Smith joins Ben West in the second row while Richard Mayhew returns in the back row.

Mike Cusack, Charlie Beech and Ollie Stedman are all sidelined through injury, while Josh Bainbridge makes his return from injury.

Meanwhile, fly-half Warren Seals has joined Aviva Premiership side London Wasps on loan for two weeks.

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