Key knows Leeds Carnegie must tough it out

Leeds Carnegie boss Andy Key accepts his team are in "a tough position" during a prolonged fight for Aviva Premiership survival.

But Key also believes Leeds' fate is far from being settled as they prepared to face Newcastle in a critical league clash today.

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The Falcons are just one place above bottom club Leeds, but victory at Kingston Park is likely to open a minimum 10-point gap on the Yorkshire club.

Leeds, who were last relegated from English rugby's top flight two years ago, have so far scrambled just three losing bonus points – against Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Exeter – from nine games.

They will head to the north-east following successive Amlin Challenge Cup victories over Italian minnows Crociati, while England forwards Steve Thompson and Hendre Fourie make first Premiership appearances since late October, but Leeds still start as firm underdogs.

"It has been nice for everyone to come into work with a smile on their face after the recent wins," said rugby director Key, reflecting on the European successes.

"We know that we are in a tough position in the Premiership, but we are confident that we can turn the corner.

"A lot of the talk surrounding this game has been about it being

a 'must win' fixture with both ourselves and Newcastle at the foot of

the table.

"However, while it is a very important game, there is still a long way to go in the season.

"I remember this time last year we played Bath at Headingley Carnegie and people were talking about that being a relegation decider, but in actual fact Bath went on to finish in the top four and we finished in 10th."

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