DICCON EDWARDS wants his Leeds Carnegie troops to be in the entertainment business in 2011-12 – starting at home to London Welsh tomorrow.
The Carnegie head coach is embracing a fast-paced and attractive ball-playing style in a bid to lure back some punters to Headingley, who were offered grim fare last term.
His youthful crop of players – albeit with a liberal sprinkling of experience – kick off in the Championship with a toughie against Welsh, with Edwards seeking style as well as substance.
The former England Under-20 assistant coach, pictured right, said: “Mine is a brand of rugby I hope the players will enjoy and that will challenge them to be skilful and play at a pace – which ultimately the crowd will enjoy watching. It has to be successful and it will be.
“It will be a brand of entertainment and 15-man style that will hopefully bring the crowds in.”
Edwards couldn’t have cherry-picked a tougher home baptism than the Exiles, for whom former Ospreys coach Lyn Jones will be directing operations from the sidelines.
While relegated Carnegie may be the bookies’ favourites to win the Championship and claim a hat-trick of promotions back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, Edwards feels Welsh – who have beaten a Gloucester XV and narrowly lost to London Irish in pre-season – will represent a big barometer of early-season progress.
And the Exiles, beaten by Cornish Pirates in the Championship play-off semi-finals last term, will be happy if history repeats itself, having triumphed 16-10 at Headingley on day one also exactly five years ago.
Edwards added: “I think they are recognised as one of the teams who will be challenging at the top end of the division. They have had some changes and brought in a coach with outstanding experience at the top level and have a playing group that is experienced and physical. And with the link with London Irish, they will have some exciting young players.
“It’s a good start and test for us. While we recognise we could have had a slightly easier start, every game is going to have its own challenges and it’s probably better for us to start against a side who will show us exactly where we’re at. We’ll be into it straightaway and it’s a good barometer for us.”
Carnegie have agreed short-term deals with tighthead prop Mo Mustafa, who has impressed in pre-season and loose-head prop Sam Lockwood, with both penning contracts until Christmas.
Mustafa is a medical student at Liverpool University and will combine his studies with training, while Lockwood, like Mustafa, played for England Students last year.
Meanwhile, Carnegie have confirmed that injury-jinxed Aussie centre Lachlan Mackay will be on the sidelines until December following shoulder surgery.
Danny Paul is set to be back in first-team contention next month following injury.
Carnegie will be blooding six debutants against London Welsh tomorrow.
Stevie McColl starts at full-back after moving from Doncaster in the summer, while prop David Young, who came from Edinburgh starts in the front row and Ryan Burrows from Rotherham is in the back row.
The other three debutants have come through from the Academy with centre Ollie Richards, winger Curtis Wilson and scrum-half Craig Hampson all getting the chance to shine.
Joe Ford will make his return to Leeds having played last season at Northampton while Andy Titterrell will skipper the team after missing the majority of last season following a knee reconstruction.
Leeds Carnegie: McColl, Blackett, Richards, Barrow, Wilson, Ford, Hampson, Denman, Titterrell (c), Young, Denton, Hohneck, Pendlebury, Rowan, Burrows. Subs: Nilsen, Swainston, Hemingway, Beck, White, Barker, Thornley.