Upbeat Leeds Carnegie eye double festive cheer

Leeds Carnegie are full of confidence ahead of a crunch Christmas – director of rugby Andy Key targeting not just victory at Newcastle Falcons on Monday but also against Gloucester on January 1.

The Premiership clash at Falcons, originally due to take place on Boxing Day, has long been billed as D-Day with second-bottom Newcastle currently seven points ahead of Key's side, who prop up the table.

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However, back-to-back convincing victories against Italian side Crociati Rugby in the Amlin Challenge Cup have significantly boosted Carnegie's confidence and Key feels his side can notch not one but two notable successes over the festive period.

New Year's Day visitors Gloucester are currently 16 points ahead of

Leeds in sixth, but Key says two fine displays in Europe have greatly lifted Carnegie heading into two hugely-important games in the space of seven days with Monday's seemingly do-or-die match at Newcastle clearly taking top bill (kick-off 3pm).

"When you are in the position that we are – and the same can be said for two or three other sides at the bottom of the league – there are going to be and always will be important games," said Key.

"We recognise that playing the 11th-placed side is one of them and it's like we did at almost this time last year when we played Bath.

"It didn't quite work for us that day but they went on to finish fourth and we went on to finish tenth.

"There is a lot riding on the Newcastle game, we know how important this game is but we know that the squad is very confident now that it has the game plan and the ability to beat not just this side at the weekend but come out of the Christmas period in very good shape."

Leeds are certainly in good shape at present after two quickfire victories against Crociati – recording 55-6 and 44-6 successes.

Key had specifically called for two big wins to install confidence and admits it is job done, but now comes the task that matters most – victory against relegation rivals Falcons.

"We recognised two weeks ago that we needed to come off the back of two very good performances in Europe against Crociati," said Key.

"This game against Newcastle Falcons – 11th against 12th – doesn't get any bigger at this time of the season, it's in our hands and we've got to take every opportunity that comes our way.

"But, there are still 13 games to play.

"There's still a lot to play for and we are in buoyant mood now. We're going into the Christmas period in really good shape and with lots of confidence and belief about where we are.

"Let's just get the game on now and it will be about us focusing on us rather than Newcastle."

The game also presents a huge sense of deja vu with Leeds winning the corresponding fixture 16-15 last season to breathe new life into that campaign's Premiership survival bid.

A repeat dose would do very nicely indeed but Key has full respect for

Alan Tait's side – especially at Kingston Park.

"It's not an easy place to go to Newcastle on their own patch," he said.

"They have always been a difficult side to beat but we proved last year, around the same time, that it can be done.

"We went there with a very strong mindset with a team that knew that it needed to win. We did that and those are the sort of beliefs that we will take into the game on Monday."

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