Leeds Carnegie ‘mad’ for Harlequins victory - Back

RECALLED: Leeds Carnegie's Michael Stephenson.
RECALLED: Leeds Carnegie's Michael Stephenson.
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TO COIN a famous phrase from a world-renowned Mancunian pop group, Leeds Carnegie are simply mad for it ahead of Sunday’s huge Aviva Premiership home encounter with Harlequins (3pm).

Head coach Neil Back insists the game is the biggest since he came to the club in the summer of 2008 – surpassing even last year’s Survival Sunday clash with Worcester Warriors.

And he has called on his troops to have no regrets come the final whistle, while urging the Yorkshire public to shout themselves hoarse to try and see them over the line when only a win will do in their safety quest.

Carnegie are hoping to attract a 10,000 crowd – aided by a good weather forecast – on their date with destiny, their penultimate assignment in what has been a long, hard and taxing season.

On the players’ frame of mind, Back declared: “They are absolutely mad for it....

“We’ve said to the players all week if you give everything, that’s all you can give.

“What you don’t want to do is come to the end of the game and wish you’d have tried harder and gone for it. We’ve got to go for it and give it everything and then if you fail, it won’t be through a lack of effort.”

He added: “I think it’s the biggest game for Leeds Carnegie since I’ve been at the club. We recognise what is (riding) on the game.

“We were very disappointed with the score and part of the performance against Wasps last weekend and we need to get back to winning ways.

“We always talk about the next game being the most important one, but there’s definitely an extra edge on this one.

“It’s critical we come away with a win; or at worst a point. But I think it’s about winning – the players know that.

“The support is key. The level of support really gave us something in the must-win game against Worcester last year. We’ll put our best team on the field and if we get the support of Yorkshire we can’t ask for anything more than that.

“You learn from experiences and we can certainly draw upon the Worcester game and others. We know when your backs are against the wall, it’s about who turns up mentally and being in the right place and then taking your breaks.

“We want to go to the last game with a chance...”

Seventh-placed opponents Quins have been chalk and cheese this term, nigh on impregnable on home soil but suffering from a bad bout of travel sickness on the road and Back is desperate for that trait to continue tomorrow afternoon.

Back, whose side were trounced at the Stoop in November, said: “We are playing a side who have won only once on the road all season, at Northampton, and their away form is not fantastic.

“But we know ourselves there’s quality in their team and if we give them time and space on the ball, they can kill you and we’ve been on the back end of that in the past.

“I hope they come full of confidence and abandonment and just go our and play and think they have just got to turn up. I’m sure they won’t, with their management team, senior players and experience they have got.

“But if their mind is slightly off, it would be an advantage to us.

“We know what we have to do; it’s about if we’re good enough to do it.”

Back has made five changes to the side that lost to Wasps.

Christian Lewis-Pratt starts at full-back with Michael Stephenson moving from 15 to the wing in place of Peter Wackett, who starts on the bench. Lachlan MacKay replaces the injured Luther Burrell at inside centre.

Phil Swainston comes in for Juan Gomez, who was injured against Wasps, Kearnan Myall moves from the back to second row and Rhys Oakley is named in the back row along with the returning Alfie To’oala.

Leeds Carnegie: Lewis-Pratt, Blackett, Fa’afili, MacKay, Stephenson, Jarvis, Mathie, Hardy, Thompson, Swainston, Browne, Myall, Oakley, Fourie, To’oala. Reps: Nilsen, MacDonald, Denman, Paul, Hohneck, White, Wackett, Barrow.

lLeeds’ hopes of staying up were boosted yesterday, when relegation rivals Newcastle Falcons lost 24-13 at home to Leicester Tigers.

The sides are level on points at the bottom having played and won the the same number of games.

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