Leeds Carnegie: Let's start New Year firing on all cylinders - Key

New Year, new start – and Andy Key is eyeing a change of fortune, allied to some raucous support, as Leeds Carnegie seek to get the Aviva Premiership ball rolling against visiting Gloucester.

The game is the first part of a double header with sister club Leeds Rhinos, with Rhinos coach Brian McDermott having urged supporters of the 13-a-side code to get behind Carnegie – who kick off first at 1pm – with priceless Premiership points at stake.

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The sight of Lesley Vainikolo and possibly Henry Fa'afili and Semi Tadulala would give the union tussle a certain 'league' feel for supporters wishing to cross the divide temporarily, with Carnegie director of rugby Key hoping as many fans as possible embrace the concept.

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He said: "What a great event. I don't know the history books or how long ago we did a double header, but it's a great way to start the new year, whether you be a rugby league or union fan.

"There's two competitive games, back to back, at a very sensible price as well and we hope as many people come down to support us and give us an edge.

"For us, it's a great opportunity to get our first win at home on New Year's Day – what better stage to do it on."

While it's been a difficult festive holiday season so far for Carnegie, it's fair to say the whole of last month was a hugely testing one for opponents Gloucester following two postponements, a first home loss in more than a year and the death of philanthropic chairman and owner Tom Walkinshaw.

But despite their December travails, Gloucester – beaten just twice in their past 14 top-flight outings against Leeds – will still represent a formidable force, according to Key, at least grateful for small mercies in that the postponement of the December 27 trip to Newcastle Falcons at least avoided the spectre of fresh injuries.

Key, who says Carnegie will be picking from strength with England duo Hendre Fourie and Steve Thompson set for their first Premiership outings since October 22, said: "We're under no illusions about the challenge of Gloucester.

"Bryan Redpath and his coaching team are doing a great job. It's a side which is getting back to the old Gloucester way which everybody knew with some extra dimensions as well.

"They have some exciting backs and are putting a forward pack together, which is very physical.

"But we do come off the back of two very good performances over in Italy and here against Crociati.

"We feel good about ourselves and are looking forward to tomorrow's game.

"As a side, we wanted the Newcastle game to go ahead as we were in a good place and had a buoyant mood around the squad. But it wasn't to be.

"One of the bonuses is that we haven't done anything to pick up any

unnecessary injuries and go into the Gloucester game with a full of complement who would have been available and we're pleased about that.

"It's good to have Hendre and Thommo back. Both had successful campaigns in international rugby and then missed out because of weather (in the Premiership).

"But certainly Thommo played a crucial part in the two recent cup games, although Hendre for safety reasons didn't play in Italy.

"But both will have a massive part to play this weekend."

Meanwhile, Key says he expects big lock Sean Hohneck to be available

later this month following his injury nightmare with a serious ankle injury, which has restricted him to just two starts and two sub appearances since joining the club in the summer.

Key added: "He's not far away, another two or three weeks. He'll go through a fairly rigorous training regime which is more pitch-related and running-related than just getting his leg better. We're hoping he should be around us soon to get his first game under his belt."

Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

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