Leeds Carnegie: Ford’s happy to play every week

COUNT ME IN: Leeds fly-half Joe Ford has skipped the chance of a weekend off to play for Carnegie against Pontypridd.
COUNT ME IN: Leeds fly-half Joe Ford has skipped the chance of a weekend off to play for Carnegie against Pontypridd.
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Leeds Carnegie coach Diccon Edwards need never worry about fly-half Joe Ford ever wanting a rest – even if the Headingley boss demands it.

Many first-teamers will be given the afternoon off tomorrow when Carnegie face Pontypridd in the British & Irish Cup at West Park Leeds, with Edwards making 10 changes to the side that lost against Bedford Blues.

But Ford, who has missed only one game all season, will be wearing the No10 jersey again and looking to pilot his side to victory.

He has no qualms with that especially given the amount of time spent frustrated on the sidelines earlier in his career.

“Two years ago, I had a season at Northampton when I didn’t play at all so that gives you some perspective,” said the Leeds Academy product.

“I am happy to play every week if the coaching staff need me to do that.

“It is good to keep playing, especially in the halves, because you get into a rhythm.

“We watched Pontypridd’s game against Jersey earlier in the pool and they are a really tough team and certainly no mugs.

“We know it is going to be a tough, physical battle and we will need to show a massive improvement on last week if we are going to compete with them.”

Edwards admits his side were “flat” for most of their game against Bedford when they trailed 45-25 at Otley before it was abandoned due to a freezing pitch.

He expects a response tomorrow and much will depend on the 22-year-old Ford directing his side around the park against the Welsh Premiership champions.

He has been one of Leeds’ most consistent players and trails only Jimmy Gopperth, of prolific Championship leaders Newcastle Falcons, in terms of goals and points scored.

However, Ford admits the club’s On the Road scheme has made him look deeper at his kicking game.

They have played at local clubs York, Wharfedale and Otley of late and he admitted: “Playing in a stadium like at Headingley Carnegie or Nottingham tends to present a consistent kicking environment for the whole game.

“But when you go to more open grounds you have to take into account the elements a lot more.

“That will definitely be the case at West Park Leeds as I know from my days in the A team.

“It can be a bit windy up there and change direction several times in a game so I’ve needed to put in a bit more practise time this week.”

Leeds have yet to pick up a win in the B&I Cup, losing against Jersey at York and at Leinster A, so they are in danger of missing qualification for the knockout stages.

Victory tomorrow will keep their hopes alive but Ford admits he is looking forward to finally returning to Headingley Carnegie in the new year.

Carnegie, who last played there against Doncaster in the first week of October, will get a first run-out on the new £1 million pitch against Plymouth Albion on Sunday January 6.

“I can’t wait to be back at Headingley Carnegie and I think all the boys are getting excited about it now,” he said.

“I went down to have a look at it the other day and it looks amazing.

“I know that Jason Booth and his team will have done an outstanding job and we will get to see the benefits for a good few years with a top quality surface throughout the winter months.

“Playing the games on the road has been a good experience, and the atmosphere created has been really worthwhile, but there is nothing like playing at your home ground and I am really looking forward to the Plymouth game already.”

Tomorrow, scrum-half Craig Hampson comes in for James Doherty while Ford has a revamped backline to unleash.

Only ex-Castleford Tigers ace Josh Griffin retains his place at centre with winger Jamel Chisholm, full-back Christian Georgiou and wideman Curtis Wilson all coming in, Oli Goss moving from wing to centre to replace Fred Burdon.

Hooker Joe Graham plus props Ben Harris and Ben Hooper forge a new front-row while England Under 20s international Dominic Barrow starts in the second-row with Matt Smith alongside him.

Rob Baldwin and Chris Walker return in the back-row, captain Jacob Rowan and Richard Beck rested, while young lock Pierce Phillips and centre Matt Clark are expected to debut from the bench.

Hunslet's South Leeds Stadium this morning.

Matches off: Castleford Tigers, Hunslet, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax and Yorkshire Carnegie games postponed