Leeds Carnegie must keep faith - Rabeni

Leeds Carnegie might be floundering at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table – but former Headingley favourite Seru Rabeni is confident the board's decision to keep faith with director of rugby Andy Key and head coach Neil Back is the right call.

Carnegie are still without a league win this campaign and have just three points to their name – seven adrift of their nearest rivals Newcastle Falcons.

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Rabeni's departure to La Rochelle in the summer just months after being named in Sky Sports' Premiership Dream Team has been identified as a key reason why Carnegie have struggled this term.

But the big Fijian three-quarter, right, believes Leeds can still get out of Premiership trouble, but will have no hope of avoiding the dreaded-drop to the Championship if they pull the plug on World Cup winner Back and Key.

Rabeni said: "Leeds has struggled so far this season, but they certainly have the quality to stay up and I have full faith in the coaching set-up.

"Neil Back is a phenomenal coach and it was a great season there when I worked with him.

"The winning mentality Neil Back experienced at Leicester will help him and the players at Leeds change the situation around.

"It must be tough as they are all winners, but of course things are not

going their way at the moment, but if anyone can turn things around, then it is Neil Back. He worked wonders for Leeds last year and he can still do a great job this season as long as he is allowed to work and given the time to turn things around.

"I would have probably liked to stay at Leeds for another season, but things do not always work out, but hopefully they can halt their slide and stay in the Premiership."

Meanwhile, it has also been a struggle for Leeds star Steve Thompson this autumn, with the veteran hooker losing his front-row spot in

Martin Johnson's starting XV to Dylan Hartley and being forced to play a substitute role in England's last three autumn Tests.

But veteran All Black hooker Kevin Mealamu maintains Thompson still has a lot to offer England, despite not being in possession of the No.2 jersey – albeit in a more mentoring role.

"Hartley is playing really well at the moment, but I think a lot of that is down to the impact Thompson has had on him," Mealamu said.

"It is always good to have someone like Thompson around as a mentor as well and there is none better in the England camp at the moment.

"I know Steve from numerous games against him and Dylan's in good hands as he always gave me a good test and he will continue to do so I am sure."

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