Rugby Championship: New-look Yorkshire Carnegie hope to catch Bedford Blues on the hop in league opener
THE NEW Yorkshire Carnegie era gets under way for real tomorrow as they embark on what is sure to be a testing Championship campaign.
Martyn Wood’s hastily-assembled squad have played three Championship Cup games so far to try and gain some semblance of cohesion following all their off-season strife.
They have suffered three hefty defeats but those fixtures were always considered much-needed preparation towards the league opener against Bedford Blues at Emerald Headingley.
There are four changes to the starting line-up that lost 50-7 – Carnegie scoring their first points of the season – at London Scottish last Friday.
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“We have given a lot of people opportunities,” said Wood.
“Some have taken them, some haven’t. Some people have stuff to work on. The team we have out there on Sunday is probably about as strong as we can get out there at the moment.
“We’re looking forward to it.”
Up front, James Flynn returns to the starting line-up and Guy Graham comes back in at No8, with Henri Lavin moving to flanker.
Thom Smith, who is on loan from Leicester Tigers, replaces James Seabrook, who is named on the bench along with Ryan Shaw, the winger who is set to debut after his cross-code switch from Hull KR.
Joe Carlisle starts at centre in place of Zach Kerr while player-coach Joe Ford will operate from No10.
Bedford suffered a surprise 25-12 home Cup defeat to Ampthill last Saturday, the promoted National League side that many expect to be challenging Carnegie to avoid relegation.
“Bedford are a good Championship team,” insisted Wood.
“They will come up here full of confidence.
“I know they lost last week against Ampthill so they’ll want to put that right.
“They will have a big set of forwards and they like to throw the ball around so a lot of work we have done around that.
“We have focused on our gameplan and it should be a good one to counter it.”
Ampthill’s result could offer Carnegie hope that they may yet secure a surprise win of their own.
“Ampthill are a good unit,” he said, with Carnegie heading down to Bedfordshire next Saturday. “I don’t know what happened. Maybe Bedford did take them a bit lightly, I’m not sure.
“But I’m sure they will want to rectify what they did wrong last week and put it right so we will have to be on our mettle to compete.” After such a sobering Cup run – Carnegie conceded a massive 181 points in just three games – it is understandable why fans may fear the worst in 2019-20.
But Wood maintained: “Training’s been giving me encouraging signs.
“I’m not saying we’re 100 per cent confident but we’ve got a game plan, we’re going to execute it and I think we have the players to do that.”