Match preview: Leeds Carnegie v Crociati Rugby

Lumbering lock Kearnan Myall will be missing for Leeds Carnegie's Amlin Challenge Cup clash with visiting Crociati Rugby.

Myall is still suffering from the leg injury he sustained in the heavy Aviva Premiership defeat at Harlequins just under a fortnight ago.

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Better news sees skipper Marco Wentzel available after recovering from a knock in the game at the Twickenham, while Carnegie's line-out options are also set to be bolstered early in the New Year by the eagerly-awaited return to action of summer recruit Sean Hohneck.

The big Kiwi has made just two starts since arriving from Italian

outfit Viadana following a problematic ankle injury.

Young hooker Scott Freer is available again after a knee problem, with his availability enabling plans to bring in cover in the hooking department to be placed on hold with England international Steve Thompson back on club duties and Phil Nilsen providing direct first-team competition.

Director of rugby Andy Key said: "Things are going really well with Sean now. He's out of the medical book now and is on the mend.

"His rehab is going very well. He's starting to run now and should be back in the early part of the year."

Carnegie face back-to-back assignments with minnows Crociati in the space of a week, with the reverse fixture in Italy taking place next Sunday.

And while a dog-eared performance would do for Carnegie if it meant getting the winless monkey off their backs on home soil, a victory achieved with a bit of a swagger would be a bonus, according to Key.

He insists the players are straining at the leash to return to action after stewing for the best part of a fortnight after a hefty 51-18 loss at Quins, with some weather frustrations adding to their pent-up frustration.

Key said: "At the beginning of the season, it is about winning, but doing it in a style we know we can grow.

"At the moment, we'll just take the win.

"But for us to springboard the way we want to and be where we want to be for the Newcastle game, we need to win well in terms of both games.

"In terms of Sunday, the players are massively eager to get on and play it.

"We're basically going into the game with the same side we selected for Northampton and nothing has changed but the weather.

"We've had some training sessions, although the weather still hasn't been ideal. But the players are used to it on the back of last year's bad weather and we've got on with it and are in good spirits."

While the cream of Italian rugby talent has been hived off by new Magners League outfits Aironi and Benetton Treviso, Super 10 teams effectively representing their 'second tier' such as Parma-based Crociati – formed in June following the amalgamation of Rugby Parma and Noceto Rugby – remain competitive and fiercely proud, especially on home turf.

Key, whose side make a quick return trip to Parma after beating the former Rugby Parma side back in January on cup business said: "For all the right reasons, Italian rugby has made the right decisions and time will tell whether they are proved right in the coming years.

"In the Magners League, one or two have shaken a couple of clubs and had good wins and performances.

"Underneath these sides, we have the likes of Parma (Crociati), Gran Parma and Lazio. Yes, they have been slightly weakened, but the idea has been to develop more Italian-based players.

"We're looking forward to the return game as well. It's (Parma) a nice place where we go and we were looked after very well and we're going back to the same hotel again.

"It's a good trip, but a long and difficult trip made a little bit more complicated by us playing on the Sunday and having to come back on the Monday as the flight aren't as frequent as we'd like.

"But all of that will hopefully be forgot when we come back with the right performance and result."

Both Fourie and Thomspon will come back into the starting line-up and Wentzel will lead the side who are looking for their second win in the competition.

Ceiron Thomas will start the game at full-back, with Lachlan MacKay coming in at fly-half, Michael Stephenson being named on the wing and Warren Fury at scrum-half.

Leeds Carnegie: Thomas, Blackett, Fa'afili, Barrow, Stephenson, Mackay, Fury, Hardy, Thompson, Gomez, Denton, Wentzel, Oakley, Fourie, Browne.Replacements: Nilsen, Alonso, Rodriguez, Paul, To'oala, Mathie, Wackett, Hinton.

Thomas Christiansen.

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