Dream of top-flight return still on for former Yorkshire Carnegie star Ryan Burrows

Doncaster Knights' Ryan Burrows. (Picture: Tony Johnson)Doncaster Knights' Ryan Burrows. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Doncaster Knights' Ryan Burrows. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
IT IS not in the circumstances he would have wanted – nor with a club he ever imagined – but former Yorkshire Carnegie captain Ryan Burrows admits his move to Doncaster Knights has “reinvigorated” his love for rugby.

The hard-running No8, rightly regarded as one of the Championship’s finest players before finally earning his Premiership move with Newcastle Falcons, is at Castle Park on a loan deal until the end of the season.

For someone who initially made more than 100 appearances for hometown Rotherham Titans and then proved such a huge fans’ favourite at Carnegie – leading them to a Championship play-off final during his six seasons there – it is all quite strange pulling on the jersey of such fierce rivals.

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However, after playing his second game for Doncaster – ironically at Emerald Headingley on Sunday – he told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s good.

“I’ve come back (to Yorkshire) for personal reasons.

“My brother passed away a few weeks ago so I’ve come back for that reason: to be close to my family at this time.

“And it has sort of reinvigorated my love for the game a little bit more, just to get back enjoying playing at a good standard with a good bunch of lads.”

Burrows, 30, has spent the last two seasons with Newcastle, and has signed for Championship club Coventry on a three-year deal starting next term.

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He made just eight Premiership appearances for the Falcons, but has not regretted making the move after Carnegie missed their own promotion chance of elevation in the 2016-17 Championship final against London Irish.

Burrows explained: “I loved it. I played 30 games. And some good games.

“There were only a handful in the Premiership but I played a lot of European fixtures, captaining them in some big games, and took a lot out of it.

“I think I’ve improved as a player and I think my leadership has come on as well.

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“It was two years where I’ve gone away, improved as a player and it’s something I’m looking to take forward for the rest of this year with Doncaster and then Coventry after that.”

But how surreal was it playing against his former Carnegie colleagues in Sunday’s 21-12 defeat?

“It was weird,” he said, having also been sin-binned during the contest. “I don’t normally get nervous before games but on the bus on the way up with the Donny boys there were butterflies in the stomach.

“It was weird coming back here and wearing a Doncaster shirt; with no offence to Doncaster it is something that I probably didn’t envisage doing this soon.

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“I’d have loved to have come back here (Carnegie) but unfortunately this club is in a difficult position and I feel for the boys. Hopefully they can pull through and get some jobs out of it.”

Cash-strapped Carnegie, of course, made the painful announcement last week that they will become a part-time operation next term.

The club had hoped to make a concerted push for promotion back into the elite in 2019-20 but are now instead facing a far more invidious proposition following a failure to secure funding.

Burrows said: “I don’t want to slag them as it’s a great club and it means a lot to me. It was difficult to take when I heard the news.

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“But reading between the lines it’s been a long time coming; they have promised, and promised, and promised and here they are – eight years since I signed originally – and the chat now is of part-time.

“A club of this magnitude – when you look at the stadium, the pitch, the squad they’ve got together – bottom at Christmas but now pushing for a top-five spot and probably one of the form teams in the league.

“A bit of backing and Premiership rugby is not far around the corner but ultimately they have decided to go down a different route. It’s a massive shame for rugby not only in Leeds but in Yorkshire and the northern area.”

Burrows, then, finds himself joining Coventry for the next chapter of his career, a club who do have bold ambitions to make the top-flight.

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“They certainly are (ambitious),” he said. “I went to speak to (director of rugby) Rowland (Winter).

“They are frustrated with where they are this year.

“I think they have only lost a couple of games at home but the disappointing thing for them is that they haven’t won a game away from there.

“It’s a fresh challenge, there’s some clear goals about where the club wants to be in three years and he’s sold me the dream.”

Firstly, though, Burrows is due to face his next employers when Coventry visit Doncaster on Saturday in the penultimate round of this campaign

He said: “If I’m picked it’ll be just another game for me – but also a good opportunity to show the Coventry fans what sort of player I am before next season.”